Lee A. Daniels
Add another line to Hillary Clinton’s qualifications for the presidency: “Faced down the latest Republican Party attempt to wreck the Democratic Party and the two-party system in America.”
The woman who would be president – whose public career includes being First Lady to a governor and a president, winning election to the U.S. Senate, running a tough campaign for her party’s presidential nomination, and service as Secretary of State – last week met the greatest challenge to her candidacy with a resolve and clarity of explanation that couldn’t be shaken by the Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
“We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear,” she told the committee in her opening statement. “We should resist denigrating the patriotism or loyalty of those with whom we disagree … And my challenge to you, members of this Committee, is the same challenge I put to myself. Let us be worthy of the trust the American people have bestowed upon us. They expect us to lead. To learn the right lessons. To rise above partisanship and to reach for statesmanship.”
Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chair of the committee Republicans had set up in the wake of the deadly September 2012 terrorist attack on a State Department compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya were slain, declared at the hearing’s opening that its goal was solely to pursue “the truth” of why the attack succeeded.
It was not, he said to Clinton, “about you. Let me assure you it is not.”
But the committee’s true purpose had been perfectly captured by Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles’ October 21 cartoon.
Toles’ drawing shows Clinton and three Republican committee members seated at separate tables facing each other across an open space at the edges of the cartoon. Between them at the top of the space is a simple clothes rack with a long black dress hanging on it, a broom leaning against it on one side and a conical black witches’ hat perched on it on the other side.
Toles’ bubble comment has Gowdy asking Clinton, “… if you could put on the testifying outfit and take your seat …”
It quickly became clear, however, that Clinton wasn’t about to let herself be labeled a sorceress or made a victim. “I’m sorry fit your narrative, congressman,” Clinton said sternly at one point during a terse exchange with Republican Jim Jordan, of Ohio. “I can only tell you what the facts were.”
But, as the Tom Toles’ cartoon indicated, Clinton was not the only one under scrutiny at the hearing. Indeed, the legitimacy of the committee itself had been all but erased in stunning fashion by the comments of two prominent GOP officials.
First, in early October Kevin McCarthy, who as House Majority Whip is the number two official in the House’s leadership hierarchy, boasted on the GOP-friendly forum of Fox News commentator Sean Hannity’s program that “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable. But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”
McCarthy’s boast, which quickly destroyed his own candidacy for Speaker of the House of Representatives, was later, in effect, seconded by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) who said on a radio talk program, “there is a big part of this that was designed to go after people – an individual, Hillary Clinton.”
And still later, a former Benghazi committee staffer now suing it for wrongful termination said he had been fired in part because he resisted an order that the entire staff focus not on Benghazi but on trying to find something damaging in Clinton’s partially using her private e-mail account for State Department business.
These comments punctured the Benghazi Committee’s masquerade: It really should be called the GOP’s ‘Get Clinton’ Committee, for it starkly represents what the Republican Party, deranged by the success of President Obama and addicted to pursuing a cloaked White-supremacist electoral strategy, has given itself over to.
As I wrote recently, it’s become a wrecking-ball party, willing to destroy institutions, traditions, and people in order to get its way. Indeed, we have as evidence a seven-year-long trail of the GOP targeting this cause or that program for destruction: the Get Obamacare effort; the Get Abortion Clinics campaign; the ongoing Get Democratic-Leaning Voters Away from the Ballot Box effort; the Get (Block) Same-Sex Marriage effort; the Get Gays and Lesbians Out of the Military campaign; the Get Planned Parenthood sham; the Get Black Lives Matter campaign.
And that’s just a partial list.
In that regard, the GOP’s tricked-up Benghazi committee should propel those who want a democratic (with a small “d”) United States to form a “Get Clinton” committee of their own-one that will get Hillary Clinton into the president’s chair in the White House.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His essay, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Great Provocateur,” appears in Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent (2014), published by Zed Books. His new collection of columns, Race Forward: Facing America’s Racial Divide in 2014, is available at www.amazon.com