To read the coverage of yesterday’s Benghazi hearing was to understand that Americans can inhabit entirely separate political planets depending on their politics. For conservatives, the two main takeaways from the hearing were scandalous indeed. Before the attack, Hillary Clinton’s State Department ignored literally hundreds of requests for additional security. Hundreds. That’s the bureaucratic equivalent of a desperate cry for help. And after the attack, Clinton told the truth to her own family and to the Muslim Brotherhood–led government of Egypt, but not to the American people. Instead, she famously told Charles Woods, father of slain SEAL Tyrone Woods, “We will make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.”
While yesterday’s hearing didn’t change the essential storyline of Benghazi, it did make the details worse. But don’t tell the inhabitants of that other planet, Planet Liberal. The first e-mail I got this morning came from the Washington Post, sending their “Daily 202” newsletter. And what was the top story? “Eight reasons why Hillary Clinton won the Benghazi hearing.” Politico declared this week to be “Hillary’s Best Week Yet.” And the far-left sites like the Huffington Post and Salon were nothing short of giddy in their coverage — declaring, “This is why you don’t mess with Hillary Clinton” and claiming that the GOP committee members “embarrassed themselves.”
Let’s translate this into plain English: The hearing was a “bust” because Hillary rationalized away her abject failures and multiple lies with poise and panache. Libya is a failed state? The State Department ignored warning after warning, and failed to protect its people at our embassy? There was no adequate American response despite an hours-long firefight in Benghazi? The administration lied to the American people for day after day after day about the cause of the attack? No matter. Look at how mean the Republicans are! Gaze in wonder at Hillary’s stamina. End the hearings and #FreeHillary!
No one, however, should be surprised that Hillary was able to dazzle the Left. While she’s not as charismatic as her husband, she does share his greatest political gift — the ability to persuade millions of Americans to not just accept but defend truly reprehensible, indefensible conduct. Consider Bill Clinton. After months of public combat with Kenneth Starr and House Republicans, the public was ready to “move on” from revelations that Clinton not only engaged in a tawdry affair in the Oval Office but also lied under oath — all the while committing acts of mass-scale character assassination against the people who doggedly pursued the truth.
“Sure, but his marriage is his own business, and doesn’t everyone lie about affairs?” declared the same people who’ve collected countless scalps of executives and professionals caught doing far less. And so we’re left with arguably the most popular Democrat in the land occupying a gray area between cad and sexual predator — between Eliot Spitzer and Bill Cosby — and he’s still toasted from coast to coast.
Consider Hillary’s e-mail scandal. After months of drip-drip-drip public revelations, the Democratic party is once again ready to move on from the fact that the secretary of state kept classified information on an unsecure server located in the bathroom of a Denver loft apartment. Every other government employee would face imminent prosecution, but Hillary? This is all old news. In the Left’s eyes, there’s now no “smoking gun” unless a Freedom of Information Act Request turns up an e-mail from her home-brewed IT system marked “Top Secret” that says, “I know I’m committing a felony sending this, but . . . ”
At the end of the day, one wonders what level of misbehavior or incompetence the liberal press won’t tolerate from Hillary Clinton.
In each scandal, the pattern is the same. The Clintons fight, each new revelation simply establishes a new baseline of acceptable or understandable conduct, and when the revelations pile ever higher, a cursory and insincere apology is supposed to make it go away. The end result is that the Clintons play by their own rules while the rest of us toil away bound by quaint concepts like “law” or “honor.”
At the end of the day, one wonders what level of misbehavior or incompetence the liberal press won’t tolerate from Hillary Clinton. Provided that she has a sufficient chance to offer a series of denials, adjust her story to new facts, and — above all — blame Republicans for her plight, she can do virtually anything. The media sellout is complete. She could shoot a man in Reno — just to watch him die — and the headlines in the Huffington Post would praise her for observational skills and intellectual curiosity.
Why? Because if Hillary loses then Republicans win, and for millions on the left, that’s a fate worse than incompetence, worse than corruption, and — when it comes to Benghazi — worse even than other men’s deaths.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.