The first two and a half hours of Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi have presented a contrast between Clinton and her Republican interrogators that they quite clearly didn’t want taking hold in the public imagination.
Clinton: Poised, knowledgable, contrite, humble, clear.
Republicans: Small, petty, uninterested, disjointed, prepossessed.
Going in, I expected Republicans to smuggle deception and conspiracy theories into the testimony behind a veneer of politeness. And they have. But not to the extent I was expecting. There have also been a few, expected moments of condescension—most aggressively by Representative Mike Pompeo, who was recently reprimanded on national television by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell for trafficking in falsehoods about Clinton and Benghazi.
But the overriding theme thus far has been the GOP’s palpable awareness that this isn’t going particularly well, and that they’d do better not to serve up anything she could flip to her advantage.
That’s my impression now almost three hours in. That’s a long time to be in control of proceedings where you’re sitting alone up against a dozen inquisitors. But she has about five hours to go. At this point, I imagine Republicans must be hoping that over so many hours, and as fatigue sets in, she’ll slip and offer them a single damaging soundbite or decontextualized “gaffe,” and try to use that soundbite to overwhelm the otherwise extremely positive impression she’s making. If she avoid this, she might consider the whole thing an in-kind donation to her presidential campaign.