By Aakriti Gupta
Elm Staff Writer
On Thursday, Oct. 22, Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in order to answer questions concerning her actions about the infamous incident in Libya. In 2012, when Clinton was the Secretary of State, an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya was violently attacked by terrorists, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Congressmen, especially Republicans, appeared to be unsatisfied with Clinton’s efforts in both preventing a situation like this and its aftermath.
A comment made during her time as Secretary of State led to the targeting of Clinton in this latest Benghazi inquiry. As reported by The Telegraph, when responding to a question from a senator Clinton said, “The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
The congressional hearing on Thursday lasted for almost 11 hours. What started as a showdown turned into a political endurance test. People keeping count would know that this was the eighth hearing regarding the Benghazi incident, so Clinton did in one way or another know what to expect. The hearing began with inquirers sticking to the script but went on to discuss extensively the much criticized email privacy scandal. Her management was questioned and put to shame by multiple Republicans, but Clinton came out strong not letting go of her calm and composed state of mind. This may have been an attempt to dirty Clinton’s presidential campaign, but the effort seems to have been in vain.
A lot of attention was paid to the use of a private email account while in office. Sidney Blumenthal, a journalist with historical ties to the Clinton family, was mentioned several times. During one telling exchange, representative Peter Roskam, a Republican from Illinois, sought to corner Clinton into taking credit for the American strategy in Libya. Gowdy pressed Clinton on the processes she had in place to decipher what issues came directly to her and what were passed to others at the State Department.
There was a dramatic moment when Republican Susan Brooks dropped two stacks of paper down in the dais. The congresswoman pointed at the first file and described it as the 795 Libya-related emails Clinton received in between December 2010 and February 2011. Brooks pointed at the second pile of 67 emails she received about Libya between January and September 2012. Brooks used this visual aid as a way of blaming Clinton for not addressing the issue with the attention that it deserved. The short and simple reply that Clinton gave to this elaborate dramatic act that not all communications happen over email and truly there are various other means of communications that can be used.
A significant amount of time was wasted on discussing false accusations like Republican Mike Pompeo’s suggestions that State Department employees met with Al Qaeda insurgents prior to the attacks. After being counter questioned, he was forced to admit that he had no information about who these State Department employees were. It is shocking to think that those in charge of the hearing were given full liberty to ask about issues regarding the attack without being properly informed themselves. Well, now we know why the hearing lasted 11 hours.
There were also moments where Clinton’s opponents took disrespect to a new level. Republican Roskam tried scolding Clinton for reading her notes. “I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff,” Roskam said. Clinton smiled and answered that she could “do more than one thing at a time, congressman.”
While it is very easy to hate Clinton for her actions and remarks in the past, I believe she brings more than distrust to the table. Many have called her a liar and have blamed her for endangering the country, the use of her personal email server, while others have pointed towards her overreliance on foreign aid. I feel she is a victim of increased media scrutiny for being in the spotlight for so many years as the first lady, senator, Secretary of State, and now as a prospective presidential candidate.
Clinton is extremely intelligent, well educated, and experienced due to the different positions and roles she has held and played over the past decades. She has championed many initiatives like the Global Health Initiative focused on improving conditions in maternal health throughout the world. Though many may disagree, I strongly believe in her efforts to promote gender equality. She has continuously worked towards improving women’s health, equal pay, and domestic violence. Clinton may have made some mistakes, but those cannot overshadow all the positive things that she has done for the country. She once said, “You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not secretary of state; I am. If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.” Her ability to take a strong stance on issues and express her opinions without any hesitation is one of reasons why she has so many critics. There are many reasons to hate her, but more to respect her.