Today's meandering and unfocused hearings on the events in Benghazi and the fictitious stories told about it afterwards were, unfortunately, utterly typical of congressional hearings. There are a many reasons.
One is that witnesses, by virtue of their jobs, almost always know more about the subject than their congressional interrogators. And most members, though they may be lawyers, are not experienced cross-examiners.
The questioning ping pongs back and forth between the two parties, meaning that no one can get very far with a line of questioning before it's time to change to a member of the other party, who can be expected to rush to the witness's defense.
And it was most helpful to Secretary Clinton's cause today to appear before both Houses. That shortened both hearings and the resulting five minute turns each member had made developing a line of inquiry all the more difficult. Add to that the Congressional penchant for speechmaking.
Consider even Senator McCain, who had been pointing toward this day for months. He laid out, as you've heard part of, a harsh indictment of the whole affair, said Clinton's explanations had been unacceptable, but never settled on a question. In the House, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen listed a series of good questions, but never settled on one, allowing the witness to pick which one to answer.
A smart and tough witness can dominate such hearings. Secretary Clinton did today.