“Will she or won’t she?” That’s the hot question on Capitol Hill.
And it’s not about whether Hillary Clinton will formally declare for 2016, but whether she will ever appear before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
The latest drama involving the former secretary of state and potential presidential candidate testifying on Capitol Hill emerged yesterday when Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, told reporters that Clinton had long been willing to appear before the controversial committee. The veteran Maryland Democrat said that Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the inquiry, had delegated him to reach out to Clinton and that she would be more than happy to testify and had been willing to appear back in December 2014. Interestingly, Cummings has said in the past that he didn’t even think Clinton’s testimony would be necessary. Needless to say, Gowdy offers a slightly different version.
Amanda Duvall, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Republican, told The Daily Beast that, “Chairman Gowdy has always said we would welcome her testimony after State [Department] produces documents responsive to committee requests.” In particular, Gowdy argues that the committee still needs to review 15,000 pages of new documents as well as even more information, which the State Department has yet to turn over to the committee. In an interview with Fox News, Gowdy said he would be “a lousy lawyer” if he questioned Clinton or any other witness “without all the documents he needed to have a constructive conversation.”
Democrats, however, see Gowdy as trying to play politics by not having Clinton testify right away. Rep. Adam Schiff of California has already charged that Gowdy is deliberately delaying Clinton’s testimony in order to affect her expected presidential campaign. Others simply see the controversy as old news.
Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, before which Clinton testified about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the Obama administration’s response to it, have been ready to move on. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said he thought Clinton had given “thorough full appropriate answers” in her Senate testimony. He maintained that between the Senate’s hearing and the report of the Intelligence Committee on Benghazi that “the consequences of the event” had been “fully explored,” it is most important that Congress now fully fund diplomatic security going forward. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut simply dismissed the investigation: “I am not paying any attention to the House Select Committee on Benghazi.”
But regardless of how Democrats feel, the committee will move forward and Clinton eventually will testify. After all, if need be Gowdy can subpoena the former secretary of state. The question is when—and, to quote her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—“what difference does it make?”
The controversy around the attack on the Benghazi consulate now seem to focus as much on the public-relations response rather than any actual failures in supporting U.S. personnel on the ground on September 11, 2012. Whatever issues there were at the time, the issue has become entirely polarized politically. Democrats see a partisan witch hunt, while Republicans see a potential scandal covered up.
Regardless of when Clinton testifies, it’s inevitable that she will garner many headlines, change few minds and inspire more partisan bickering. After all, if a simple scheduling dispute can inspire this much vitriol, one shudders to imagine what Clinton’s actual testimony will provoke.