Analysis: Clinton clears key hurdle at Benghazi hearing
Washington – — Hillary Rodham Clinton turned an 11-hour congressional grilling into a campaign call to action on foreign policy, using a make-or-break appearance before the Republican-led Benghazi committee to display a commanding, presidential presence under a barrage of questions.
For months, Clinton’s campaign had circled Thursday’s hearing on the calendar as a key hurdle for a candidate who has struggled to fend off a flood of criticism over her use of a private email system as secretary of state. Instead, amid questioning that often bordered on a courtroom-style interrogation, Clinton avoided any major gaffes, and sought to portray herself above the partisan fray as committee members bickered.
The hearing likely did nothing to change the minds of Republicans or other voters who already distrusted and disliked Clinton. But there were some early signs that it may have helped Clinton solidify support within her party, with some donors and activists who were backing other primary candidates pledging their support for Clinton after the hearing.
Clinton’s hearing came at an important juncture in her campaign, a day after Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not challenge her for the party’s nomination and a week after a solid performance during the first Democratic debate.
With those obstacles behind her, Clinton turns her focus back to the campaign, addressing Democratic women on Friday. She gets a big stage in Iowa Saturday, where more than 6,000 activists are gathering for an annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner that will feature the four major Democratic candidates.
The upcoming events have a celebratory feel, packed with appearances by celebrity backers and longtime allies. Former President Bill Clinton will make a rare appearance on the campaign trail, attending a kickoff concert in Des Moines on Saturday with pop star Katy Perry. On Sunday, Hillary Clinton will attend a fundraising bash in New York with comedian Amy Schumer and singers John Legend and Demi Lovato to mark her 68th birthday Monday.
During Thursday’s hearing, Republicans touched on a wide range of issues, from the U.S. role in Libya and how the Obama administration initially portrayed the attacks, to the dozens of emails Clinton received from longtime political confidant Sidney Blumenthal.
But the hearing surfaced little new information and landed no blows to Clinton’s presidential aspirations.
“There’s no one simple takeaway,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, one of members of the panel. “I want the American people to know the truth about all the actions. Not just hers. We’re going to conduct many more interviews.”
In the moments after the hearing concluded, chairman Trey Gowdy struggled to explain what the committee — and the American public — learned from the marathon hearing.
“In terms of her testimony, I don’t know that she testified that much differently than she has the previous times that she’s testified,” he told reporters gathered in the Capitol.
Clinton’s daylong testimony was unlikely to end Republicans’ quest to use the heavily scrutinized Benghazi attack to question her judgment and leadership. It also was unlikely to drastically affect her standing in the Democratic presidential race.
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