Congressional Republicans’ Message to Hillary Clinton: It’s Back to Political Reality
What was most notable about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony to Congress yesterday was this fact: if you didn’t look at the TV or if you listened to it on the radio you KNEW which party many lawmakers belonged to without hearing them identify themselves.
Democrats praised her profusely. And many of the GOPers sounded less like members of Congress and more like callers on conservative talk shows, or people who were repeating key points made by Sean Hannity and others on Fox News. You got the sense from some of the tone of their questions they considered her a potential Democratic Presidential nominee — and wanted to start cutting her down to size.
Listening to Clinton yesterday, she reminded me of the many diplomats I had talked to in the mid to late 70s when I wrote for newspapers such as the Chicago Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor from New Delhi, Dacca and Madrid: they were serious policy-people, forward-looking, always trying to anticipate what something will mean and how to be better prepared for it in the future. They understood politics wherever they were and also understood the realities of the way it worked in Washington. But they were always many cuts above typical political partisans who seemed most focused on how to advance their and their party’s chances in the next election.
And so it went. Clinton appeared to be if not the only adult, one of the adults in a room with sugar-crammed children, often taking questions from GOPers who were acting out
. Some acted out their own personal issues and bitterness over lost battles (Arizona Sen. John McCain), others seemed to want to make a splash and extract a big apology (Sen. Ron Johnson) and Sen. Rand Paul seemed to be making a craven attempt to win over the GOP base in an all but formal announcement in his lectures to Clinton about how he’d fire her if he had been President (REALITY TO RAND PAUL: You won’t ever be President since your appeal is so narrow and has zero appeal to the country’s growing demographics that sunk the GOP in the 2012 national election — and you narrowed your appeal some more but you sure pleased Rush, Sean and Mark and many conservative bloggers).
And before we get flooded with name-calling emails (liberal! leftie! not moderate! how can you say that about Rand Paul? you have an agenda! liar!), GO HERE to read a USA Today piece about how Rand Paul was sending out video of the exchange. It reports:
There’s no mistaking the undercurrent of politics in the Senate’s hearing on the deadly attack at the U.S. Consulate in Libya. But if someone needed a reminder, Republican Sen. Rand Paul obliged.
Shortly after the Foreign Relations Committee grilled Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Tea Party favorite and possible presidential hopeful sent out a video clip Wednesday of his questioning with this headline:
“Had I been president, I would have relieved Secretary Clinton of her duties.”
And, in the Great Minds Think Alike department, here’s what NBC’s First Read has to say about yesterday’s grandstanding extravaganza which puts it into perspective:
*** Hillary’s honeymoon with the GOP ends: Say what you will about yesterday’s theatrics at the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees, about the testy exchanges, and about the questions asked and questions dodged. But politically, what struck us about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance was that it marked the end of her four-year honeymoon with Republicans, especially as we begin to turn to 2016. Yes, the word “honeymoon” might be a stretch. But consider how Republicans have either embraced her — or been indifferent to her — over the past four years as they’ve focused their energies on President Obama. In fact, Republicans praising her (or her husband) has been a way to criticize Obama. “I just wanted to say that I wish you’d have won the Democratic primary in 2008,” freshman GOP Rep. Tom Cotton said yesterday to Clinton. Just look at our most recent NBC/WSJ poll: 41% of Republicans approve of Clinton’s job as secretary of state (compared with just 10% who approve of Obama’s job as president). Yet whether it was the tough questions from conservatives or how Matt Drudge covered the hearings, Republicans treated Clinton as a partisan Democrat yesterday. And that was something we hadn’t seen these past four years. Madame Secretary, hope you enjoyed the Republican honeymoon while it lasted, because the bipartisan overtures are now over, assuming you do decide run in 2016.
*** But she’s stronger today than she was four years ago: Speaking of Clinton’s performance, all of her political strengths were on display. She was prepared. She was tough when she needed to be. She was deferential when she wanted to be. And she displayed both raw emotion and a sense of humor. It’s also worth noting that she’s stronger today — politically — than she was four years ago. Part of it, as we said above, is that Republicans have embraced her. But another part is that, since becoming secretary of state, she no longer owns some of her husband’s baggage. She is her own political entity now, which wasn’t always the case during her 2008 presidential bid; she was still “Mrs. Clinton” in 2008. But here’s one additional point to make: When the Clintons leave office, there’s always some kind of drama. As Bill Clinton departed the White House in 2001, there was the Marc Rich pardon. And as Hillary leaves her post as secretary of state, it ended with her testimony on Benghazi. But politically, her performance yesterday is enough to quiet any nervous nellies in the Democratic Party that she isn’t ready for what will inevitably be a rough and tumble campaign should she embark on it.
Expect to see and/or hear snippets of Clinton’s testimony taken out of context on conservative talk radio and cable talk shows because, yes, this is what is happening already and will happen.
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