Watching Hillary Clinton’s appearance before Congress on Wednesday, most Democrats beamed. The secretary of state, they felt, was strong in the face of an all-out GOP assault on her character and competence.
Republicans, meanwhile, found Clinton evasive and uninformative. In their view, she failed as completely on the witness stand as she and the rest of the Obama administration had on Sept. 11, when terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans.
Most of my Dem friends think the GOP is engaging in a witch hunt at worst, political brinkmanship at best. While I acknowledge there are major political motivations for the Republicans -- who worry they’ll lose the presidency again in 2016 should the popular Clinton run – I also recommend Democrats try a game I call “Shoe on the Other Foot.”
Let’s say Republican John McCain won the presidency in 2008. And let’s say McCain’s GOP pal Lindsey Graham had been secretary of state these past four years. Finally, let’s say the exact same events happened in Benghazi and the exact same narrative was presented to the public.
Look through uncolored lenses
Had Clinton run against President McCain this past November, would she have been satisfied with his administration’s explanations … or would she have smelled political opportunity and pounced? Would her fellow Democrats have believed Graham did all he could … or would they have cited an independent panel’s assessment that leadership was lacking and security was “grossly inadequate”? Would Dems have been OK with an official White House statement that it was not a terrorist attack but instead a spontaneous act of violence in conjunction with a religious protest … or would they have accused the administration of a cover-up designed to buy President McCain time in his re-election bid?
As a registered independent and true moderate, I gaze through neither blue- nor red-colored lenses when eyeing the Benghazi tragedy. And I echo many of the questions Republicans have been asking.
How could the State Department have ignored U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens’ request for more security? Days after the attack, how could the president of the United States and his secretary of state have known so little about what had transpired? Why have so few Democrats stepped forward to demand answers to difficult questions about Benghazi?
Before my Republican friends get holier-than-thou about all of this, I’ll remind them that the “Shoe on the Other Foot” game should be played by those of all political persuasions.
How would Republicans have treated a Democratic presidential candidate who had dismissed 47 percent of the American public? How would GOP leaders have reacted if Dems constantly questioned their nominee’s patriotism, religious faith, academic record and birthplace? How would Republicans have responded to a Democratic presidential candidate who provided only two years of tax returns?
Yes, as is often true with Democrats, Republicans can be hyperpartisan hypocrites, too. That isn’t exactly a news flash. Still, just because they have made Benghazi a political issue, it doesn’t mean their questions about the attack lack validity. As a U.S. citizen saddened by four seemingly preventable deaths, I also expect more clarity from my secretary of state. The incident and its aftermath can’t help but tarnish the legacy of a dedicated public servant who otherwise has done an outstanding job.
Although it’s far too early to say whether I will vote for Clinton should she run for president in 2016, I have no problem saying today that I’m disappointed with her handling of the situation. And I’d say the same thing if she were wearing Republican, Libertarian or Independent shoes.
Mike Nadel is a freelance writer from Matthews.
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