I followed last Thursday’s Congressional hearing on Benghazi, courtesy of live blogging coverage on Daily Kos. I avoided televised coverage of it as I do with most news. My blood pressure tends to erupt whenever I watch the insanely stupid in action; and as expected, the House Select Committee on Benghazi delivered.
In a grueling 11-hour marathon of questions, most of which concerned a variation on the theme of Mrs. Clinton’s use of her private email account for State Department business, the Committee concluded that it learned nothing new — because, in fact, there was nothing new to learn from the previous testimony given by Mrs. Clinton while she was Secretary of State. Her account of Ambassador Chris Stevens’ death was already there for the record.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy recently said out loud what had been suspected all along: that last week’s hearings were designed to bring Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign numbers down; the story of what really happened at the U.S. embassy compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 — and why — was never the point. The point was to try to find a suspicious motive in Mrs. Clinton’s use of a personal email account in order to stir up public distrust of her as she campaigns for the Presidency.
Hillary is now in good company. A new congressional hearing has been scheduled by outgoing Speaker John Boehner for Planned Parenthood’s Chief Executive Cecile Richards. Richards was grilled late in September by the House Oversight Committee on allegations Planned Parenthood profited from illegal sale of fetal tissue, based on a heavily doctored videotape.
The hearing was Boehner’s parting gift to the Republican “Freedom Caucus.” It was a means to placate them in exchange for a sane (non-Tea Party) Speaker: Paul Ryan. By providing them the theatrics of yet another House Committee hearing, they could cook up public outcry to deny further federal funding for Planned Parenthood — or else they will shut down the government.
For those who weren’t following, Mrs. Clinton endured her marathon ‘trial’ well. Ms. Richards also performed well in her first testimony before the House Committee at the end of September. But it appears that is not enough for Republicans, particularly those representatives answerable to the Tea Party factions around the country interested in dismantling government and stopping you from getting an abortion. Since we are approaching Halloween in a few days, are we getting the feeling of a new (shhhhhhh!) witch hunt?
Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible comes to mind. Written in 1953, The Crucible used the Salem witch trials as an analogy for the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings led by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. HUAC began in 1947, convening hearings that lasted until McCarthy’s death in 1957. The purpose of the hearings was to ferret out Communist infiltrators in the U.S., particularly in Hollywood.
For ten harrowing years in American life, people were persecuted, lost their jobs, or imprisoned for refusing to testify against others or name them as Communists or Communist sympathizers. The purpose of this hearing was clear: send out a chilling message instilling distrust, doubt and uncertainty. By doing so, those behind the hearings could take advantage of the chaos and hysteria that ensued. The Cold War was born and the military industrial complex prospered.
Sixty years later and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. is in a different state, though politically, sometimes its hard to tell the difference between then and now. Instead of looking for the evil Communist under the bed, we’re looking for the witch in every mouse click and Frankenstein’s abortion mill using human baby parts for scientific experiments.
But maybe we have learned something as we see the familiar parade of torches and pitchforks coming our way, as Jezebel reports:
There are lots of good reasons why neither the #Benghazi squad yelling at Hillary Clinton nor the House Oversight Committee yelling at Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards worked out particularly well for Congress. Some of it stems from the fact that both hearings were show trials, a purely partisan effort to show the folks back home how erectly principled their conservative principles are. But there’s also a visual, theatrical reason: watching a body composed predominantly of white men shout at, interrupt, and harangue a dignified, composed woman has always been a bad look, and in 2015, it’s one the public will no longer accept.
For her next hearing, I am certain Cecile Richards will be as ready as Hillary was last week. In fact, many are certain Mrs. Clinton took her cue from Ms. Richards’ September performance. They both commanded respect, stayed calm and confident, and provided facts in the face of blind rage, false accusations and even Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s tears. Understanding the past, leading in the present and facing the future, these women are sending us a message: they are not for burning, and neither are we.
Happy Halloween! See you in the comments.