In her Capitol Hill swan song, Hillary Clinton shines

January 24, 2013

Remember how Hillary Rodham Clinton’s critics said she faked her December stomach illness, which included a concussion and a subsequent blood clot, because she was scared to face scrutiny from Congress?

As the kids say, whatevs. Hillary conquered Capitol Hill on Wednesday. She looked anything but frightened as she spent six hours testifying and answering questions about Benghazi in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It was Hillary’s final major appearance as secretary of state before she vanishes into private life for the first time since the 1970s. Wearing an emerald green jacket and geek girl glasses, Hillary engrossed her fans, who love her when she talks tough (and lawyerly).

It was, at its core, terrific political theater.

Republicans,especially Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, relentlessly grilled Hillary, perhaps in an effort to appease their base. Paul said he would have demanded Hillary’s resignation if he had been president. He almost sounded condescending to the former first lady. Johnson, too, strongly interrogated Hillary about whether the Benghazi attack began as a protest or a terrorist attack. Hillary was indignant and frustrated by Johnson’s line of questioning.

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of, guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Naturally, the right-wing media went into overdrive about Hillary not caring about four dead Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, because she said, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Of course, they must have missed her earlier testimony when her voice cracked with emotion as she described meeting the caskets at Andrews Air Force Base, President Obama by her side.

“I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters” she said. “And the wives left alone to raise their children.”

Hillary’s nemesis since the 1990s – Rush Limbaugh – proclaimed the Hillary event a “pukefest.” He said, “Basically she got a Get Out of Jail Free Card. Now it’s time to take a look down the road at the future, make sure that all the ducks are in a row.”

He added that “we should not be surprised when a Clinton lies under oath.” He ridiculed her for nearly crying about the fallen Americans. “You know, it was her best moment of the 2008 primaries when she cried. Remember that? She saved herself in New Hampshire.”

Rush’s Web site, unsurprisingly, was consumed with all-things-Hillary on Wednesday.

For Hillary, the testimony was a triumphant capstone on her term as the chief U.S. diplomat. If Hillary had not dealt with the Benghazi affair before she left office, she could have been viewed as a failure and a weakling. Instead, she came blazing onto Capitol Hill in true Hillary style, concluding the Libya drama on her terms and exiting the Washington stage to regroup for her next adventure – a new book, global speeches or a presidential run.

Hillary’s loyal base — and it is ever growing among millennial women — likes the “Athena” Hillary, the wise warrior who slays Republicans (especially men) with iciness and harshness. They want her to be Madame President in four years. They long for her to be tough, emotionally, intelligent and even funny. In her swan song, she gave them that Hillary to remember.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

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