Skip to main content

Benghazi hearing's real target: Clinton in 2016

By David Rothkopf, Special to CNN
May 10, 2013 -- Updated 0945 GMT (1745 HKT)
Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, arrives for a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 8. State Department employees testified about the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/africa/gallery/libya-us-consulate-attack/index.html'>View photos of the attack.</a> Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya, arrives for a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 8. State Department employees testified about the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. View photos of the attack.
HIDE CAPTION
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
Benghazi attack hearing
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Rothkopf: Benghazi hearing upstaged by Jodi Arias verdict, Cleveland story
  • He says Benghazi worth investigating, but committee's aim was to undermine Clinton
  • He says little new revealed in hearing and no evidence of cover-up shown
  • Rothkopf: Hearings an attempt to turn innuendo into blips on opinion polls for 2016 race

Editor's note: David Rothkopf writes regularly for CNN.com. He is CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Rep. Darrell Issa must be ruing his bad luck. The hearing he carefully orchestrated to pick at the scab of Benghazi was stepped on by the verdict in the Jodi Arias murder trial and by the story of three women held captive and brutalized for a decade in Cleveland. He was out-sensationalized and out-tawdried this week despite his own best efforts and those of his committee colleagues and staff members.

That is not to say that the tragic events that unfolded last year in Benghazi are not worthy of serious investigation. They just didn't get them from Issa's committee. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her passionate testimony in December, we need to know what went wrong to prevent future tragedies. That's why she began an investigation immediately after the attacks. But Issa and his co-inquisitors were more interested in the arithmetic of 2016 presidential politics than with the events of last September 11 in Libya.

David Rothkopf
David Rothkopf

The testimony of Gregory Hicks, the former Libya deputy chief of mission, was striking and at times moving, and offered useful additional perspectives. He said he had suffered negative repercussions because he challenged the State Department line on what happened in Benghazi. But even while some of what he said was new and resonant, the Republicans on the committee weren't listening. They focused less on learning what could have been done differently than on trying to establish that Clinton and her closest associates had tried to cover up the tragedy.

John King: Benghazi investigation both legitimate and partisan

On this point, very little was revealed that was either material or new. Hicks said a Clinton aide had been angry at him over how he conducted himself with investigators after the incident. He disputed the way the attack and its origins were depicted by senior officials on television. He deplored the losses that took place. But to say that any of this points at a cover-up "has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize-class fiction attached to it," as former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, co-chairman of the committee that first investigated the attacks suggested.

Benghazi officer: Man ran in, yelling
Hicks on Libya: Saddest call of my life
State Department missed Benghazi danger
Paul on Libya: There may be more to this

That Clinton's team might want to have a clear sense of how what was clearly a politically motivated congressional investigation was being conducted seems only logical and responsible. That the origins of the attack were framed as related to an inflammatory amateur video that appeared on the Internet has long ago been established as wrong and misguided.

That the losses were terrible and that U.S. diplomatic outposts in dangerous places need more security is absolutely true, and if they really cared about such things, Issa and his team would devote more of their attention to reaching consensus on how to find the funding needed to ensure that security is available

Nothing spoken of in the hearing suggested a cover-up by a Cabinet secretary, who instantly took personal responsibility for the attacks and swiftly appointed an independent commission led by two of the most distinguished, nonpartisan career civil servants in recent American history to investigate them. To say otherwise is more than a reach. It's an effort by the Republican Party to damage the person most likely to be the next Democratic presidential candidate.

In the calculus of Washington today, Clinton is a bigger and more valuable target even than her former boss, the president. Having said that, it is almost certainly the case that the reason the initial focus in these hearings was not on the White House or elsewhere in the executive branch was that there was no evidence of a cover-up or of a politically spinning of the post-Benghazi message there either. Indeed, even Republican Sen. Bob Corker said that having reviewed all the evidence he felt there was nothing new to be revealed by these latest hearings.

No, this is just the latest example of the fine Washington art of promoting an enduring scandal out of not very much, demonstrating the ability of microphones in congressional hearings to turn scattered inconclusive facts and emotion into innuendo and blips in opinion polls. That the process also debases and, perversely, distracts from the very serious issues associated with protecting our diplomats and our interests overseas is hardly important, it seems, to the political attack dogs whose appetites are so insatiable that any nutrition-free scrap of half-truth looks like a meal.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Rothkopf.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2329 GMT (0729 HKT)
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0134 GMT (0934 HKT)
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT)
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 2011 GMT (0411 HKT)
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT)
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2141 GMT (0541 HKT)
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT