Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Circus is in Town - Congress Grills Hilary Clinton

Photo: State Department Public Domain

When I was a kid, the circus used to come to town once a year. I only remember going a couple of times, but what a treat. That giant tent, pitched in a kind of dusty field; terrifyingly wild animals, utterly inhuman feats of acrobats sailing through the air recklessly – somehow the safety net didn’t diminish the danger for me. Toffee apples and popcorn. Mouth agape. Heart in my throat. Utterly absorbed, I.

I wasn’t fully grown then, and when I was the circus wasn’t coming to town anymore, so I held onto the memory of the hugeness of it all. Until the day in my twenties when I found a circus in another town, expecting the same thrill, the same huge tent. And realized I’d grown some.

It just wasn’t the same. I understood that there wasn’t any danger if there was a safety net, and the animals were all pretty tame. Pretty unhappy too. So I never went again. Imagine my delight when I began to be interested in American politics and subscribed to the New York Times and realized the circus comes to town practically every day for me.  Not because American politics per se are a joke; I don’t think they are. 

And not because the New York Times writes publishes ridiculous articles. Perish the thought. The circus is of course the GOP, and boy are they in town. These days, where so many corrupt leaders are being bumped off their thrones, it’s hard to understand how any corruptish politician wouldn’t take note and think to themselves “hmm, can’t get away with this forever.”  

It’s a perennial theme in politics – abuse of power bites itself in the ankle.  But politicians with that bent are always brilliant at self-deception and always have their heads in the sand about the consequences of their actions. They’re often successful at first, depending on how good they are at the con game or how gullible their electorate is.  But it never lasts.
The US seems to be at that thrilling tipping point. By the time Barack Obama won his second term, the GOP was having to admit that unless the party changed significantly, they had blown their last chance. Plenty of Republicans took note and commented about it. Not enough for Congress to change its obstructive tactics, though. So they held Obama and the US economy hostage over the fiscal cliff issue, believing Obama wouldn’t stand his ground. But he did and they lost face, and got a worse deal than if they’d compromised with him in the first place.

Oh, how they lost face.  But never mind, they had plenty of weapons in their arsenal. Their next threat was that they would never raise the debt ceiling. Obama’s response? “We can’t not pay our debts…we are not a dead-beat nation.”  He didn’t stand down on that one either. They raised the debt ceiling, tails between their legs. Lots of chest-beating, though – “we’ve only given him a few months; we’ll get him later”.

Riight.  The next act in their circus parade was to grill Hilary Clinton unmercifully over the Benghazi tragedy. They wanted one answer in particular from her – that she would admit she had seen a request by Chris Stevens for increased security.  They came at her from all angles, but stubborn woman that she is, she held to her story; that she hadn’t seen it. 

At one point she said that over a million emails have been addressed to her, but she doesn’t get them all. She didn’t get this one, which is why she didn’t take action.  I would have thought it would be self evident that she didn’t get it, because this is a woman who has travelled a million miles in her job as Secretary of State and who has worked harder than any other Secretary of State in US history. She’s heavily invested in doing a good job. Why would she slack off over security in Benghazi? 

I watched some of the Congressional hearing. The grilling was ugly to watch. Angry men playing the bully game, trying to shove her around. They didn’t succeed. She’s a formidable woman. She retained her dignity and her temper. She accepted full responsibility for the State Department’s security inadequacy but she refused to say that she had received an email she clearly did not. 

It didn’t look to me like her inquisitors were trying to find the truth. They were trying to smear Hilary Clinton. They didn’t succeed. Once again, their motives were transparent. Once again they did themselves a disservice.  Bring on the clowns.