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If Republican senators on the Foreign Relations Committee thought they were going to cow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Wednesday morning's Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, they got a surprise.

After 20 minutes of obligatory introductory remarks and Clinton's reading of her prepared remarks, the committee got down to er ... uh ... ahem ... business. Most of the questions were tepid or, like Sen. Marco Rubio's, indicative of someone having no grasp on the issue at hand. However, three senators who were determined to lower whatever respect anyone had left for them were successful in that endeavor.

Sen. John McCain didn't really have any questions for Clinton. Just a ranting mini-speech. It's almost too bad Clinton takes being the nation's chief diplomat so seriously. It would have made for a wonderful moment to watch her turn Mr. Bitter into sputtering rage by ripping him a new excretory orifice. But that certainly wouldn't have been very diplomatic.

The safety of U.S. representatives overseas should, indeed, be of paramount concern.  From that perspective, investigating what happened in Benghazi deserves attention. But it's being investigated, one report has already come out, and there have been 30 public and closed-door sessions on the subject in the past four months. The partisan antics of McCain, Lindsay Graham and others, who acted Wednesday like barkers at some carnival sideshow, have done nothing to make America's representatives abroad safer.

Instead of raising blisters inside McCain's ears, however, Clinton quietly pointed out, among other things, that she and the senator have a difference of opinion about what happened and when in Benghazi as well as the nature of the subsequent U.S. response, including her own role in the matter. As for his complaints about the administration's supposed failure to train Libyans and provide them adequate assistance to deal with the many militias that sprang up in the chaotic aftermath of the overthrow of the Qadafi dictatorship, Clinton reminded McCain that it was not foot-dragging by the administration but rather by Congress that has delayed sending aid for those purposes to the North African nation.

More below the fold, including Clinton's response to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

Clinton did not remain quite as reserved at one point in the hearing, briefly flashing anger and pounding on the witness table when she responded to accusations by Sen. Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican. He declared that U.S. envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice had engaged in “purposely misleading the American public” about what had led up to the attacks in Libya:

"Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information,” Clinton said.

Clinton told Johnson he was wrong and that he was missing the point with a narrow focus on the wording of the script Rice used. With four Americans dead, Clinton said angrily, “what difference at this point does it make?”
And then there was Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who pretends he is a libertarian when it suits his purposes and something else when it doesn't. No doubt thinking of his stature among tea partiers if he actually seeks the presidency three years from now, he sent out a video of his questioning of Clinton during which he said:
"I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility. I think ultimately with your leaving that you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that. Had I been president and found you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable."
Secretary Clinton had some help with that one. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut fumed: "If some people on this committee want to call this tragedy the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4,000 plus Americans lost in the War in Iraq under false pretenses."

Not to mention the tens of thousands of Iraqis who were killed as a consequence of that concocted war. Who lost their jobs at the State Department or anywhere else over that?

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 10:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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