“I guess everybody says to me, how can you be so calm? Or how can you just, you know, look like you’re not upset? And I guess I’ve just been through it so many times.”
-- Then-first lady Hillary Clinton in a Jan. 17, 1998 interview with NBC News.
This is the last we will probably hear from Hillary Clinton for a while.
The secretary of State will face double-barreled questioning today in the Senate and the House about how her department made such a botch of the raid by Islamist militants the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Some of Clinton’s interrogators will be focused on her effort to spin the raids as an unforeseeable consequence to a YouTube clip offensive to Muslims. Other questions will focus on why her team denied pleas for more security despite warnings and with the anniversary of 9/11 approaching. Another likely line of inquiry will be about what President Obama knew and when he knew it as it relates to the video spin and the decision not to try to rescue the doomed Americans killed in the raid.
Those who are looking for a Benghazi breakthrough today should bear in mind that perhaps no one in Washington is better equipped to slip these snares than the former first lady.
This is a woman who has survived tough questioning on everything from her sudden interest in livestock commodities trading and real estate speculation in Arkansas to the suicide of one of her closest friends to the cover up of her husband’s affair with a White House aide to, to firings in the White House travel office, to her claim that she braved sniper fire in Bosnia… Well, you get the idea.
Those who think Clinton is going to crack under questioning over Benghazi now should remember how she survived prior media uproars and conservative outrages. Her best strategy has almost always been to wait for one of her detractors to overreach and then use that to discredit the more reasonable concerns raised about her or her husband.
She will no doubt be hoping for the chance to raise her righteous indignation over a nasty-sounding question. In the best-case scenario for Clinton, she would be able to summon the indignation not on her own behalf but for her staff and the president.
Now, as one of the most popular political figures in the country and viewed with deep sympathy by women who saw her mistreated by her husband and edged out by a man for the Democratic nomination in 2008, Clinton comes with a lot of clout.
She is also helped by all of the lines of questioning. As someone who once helped prepare the congressional inquiry into Watergate, she knows that it’s easier to fend off an array of questions rather than just one central line of inquiry. And having had months to prepare her answers, she’s not likely to get tangled up.
So assuming that she survives the day without breaking down or saying something truly preposterous, Clinton will be able to slide out of her official position and do so to press accolades for a job well done. Her successor, Sen. John Kerry, is a shoo-in for confirmation and Clinton should have little trouble lowering her profile until all of this Benghazi business blows over.
Then, as a very rich, very famous and very popular politician, Clinton can decide her next moves. If she wants to run for president, which it seems almost certain that she does, she can wait and watch.
While potential presidential contenders New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden have to hustle to warm up the Democratic base, Clinton can bide her time. Cuomo and Biden need to inspire the left with gun bans and other social issues, while Clinton can stand pat and talk about “big picture” ideas and lofty international goals.
Obama is revving up the base big time, finally acting like the man they wanted him to be all along: confrontational, ideological and uncompromising on key issues.
Depending on how the next two years unfold, the Democratic base may be still in the thrall of Obama-style liberalism and will want to see someone who promises to continue the incumbent’s fight against inequality, global warming, etc.
If things go poorly for the president, though, the party may be in the mood for something else and be looking for someone more centrist in hopes of holding on the White House.
Clinton, after today, will have time to see which way the wind is blowing before she starts positioning herself after the 2014 midterm elections. Whether she’s unstoppable or not, she certainly has something no other viable Democrat enjoys: the luxury of time.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“KRAUTHAMMER: [Members of Congress] will ask [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] one question that nobody in the press is asking: ‘Where are the embassy personnel who were flown out and unhurt who know and can say what happened and have not even been named by the State Department, and why aren't they allowed to speak to the American people and the congress?
BAIER: Almost no one in the press.
KRAUTHAMMER: Of course, because I exclude us as standing above the press.”
-- An exchange between Charles Krauthammer and Bret Baier on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.