That does not mean we learned nothing.
If you watched closely enough you could tell how isolated Clinton was in her own department. When talking about State Department employees, she stressed that they were not her staff. She surrounded herself with partisan loyalists to an extent that should trouble voters.
What was clear is Sidney Blumenthal, her hatchet man and political fixer had a whole lot of access, showering her with e-mails. In what was surely Clinton’s worst moment, Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked her why she sent on one of Blumenthal’s memos to the White House, removing an “identifier” showing it came from Blumenthal. She suggested the source was not important, just the content. That is an entirely preposterous assertion as anyone working with sensitive material knows; context and authorship is critical. She is too smart not to know that. The obvious reason: The administration wouldn’t let her hire Blumenthal directly so she had to take his name off the memo or the White House would discard it and be peeved she went around its edict.
For those who find the “talking points” and the cover story that an anti-Islamist video prompted the Benghazi attacks interesting, there was more grist for the mill. Under questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) we learned that Clinton e-mailed Chelsea and telephoned the Egyptians to say in very definitive terms it was a planned attack, not a spontaneous reaction to a video. She told the Egyptian prime minister on Sept. 12: “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest. Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al-Qaeda.” The White House kept insisting up through the president’s United Nations speech on Sept. 25, 2012 that this sprung from anger over a video.
The Republicans thought they scored one when Clinton was forced to acknowledge that Ambassador Christopher Stevens did not have her e-mail address, but Blumenthal did. Clinton’s campaign operative Karen Finney tweeted that it was silly to think he would send something sensitive through an unsecured e-mail. Well, that is precisely the argument why she should never have had a private server. It is what the FBI is investigating.
The FBI holds the cards here. And the most troublesome statement of the day for Clinton came from another hearing in which FBI Director James Comey stated: “The FBI is working on a referral given to us by inspectors general in connection with former Secretary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. As you also know about the FBI, we don’t talk about our investigations while we are doing them. This is one I am following very closely and get briefed on regularly. I’m confident we have the people and resources to do it in the way I believe we do all our work, which is promptly, professionally and independently.” In other words, any suggestion this is a partisan witch hunt is nonsense, and it is important enough for the director to carefully follow it.
As for the bigger issue of Clinton’s failure to take account of the rising tide of jihadism and the lack of an after-plan in Libya (not unlike the Iraq war), that will be subject matter for the presidential campaign. She calls Libya a “success,” an evaluation hard to defend in light of four dead Americans and a failed state that is now harboring scores of jihadists.