Hillary Clinton is a top-tier politician who's been the subject of nearly constant national media scrutiny for more than 20 years. She also happens to have worked at the House Judiciary Committee during the most famous and most influential congressional investigation into executive branch misconduct of all time. The Benghazi committee, by contrast, is led by a guy who can't get a proper haircut and composed largely of random backbench Republicans, most of whom run in districts that aren't remotely competitive.
Consequently, it's not so surprising that she ended up mopping the floor with her antagonists — a group that went in with no clear plan of what they were hoping to accomplish and little substantive understanding of any of the relevant policy issues.
And, indeed, the best some conservative pundits could say about it is that the hearing exceeding their low expectations.
But others, like Matt Lewis from the Daily Beast, worried that the combat went so poorly for House Republicans that it ended up being a net source of advantage to Clinton.
Unless something happens, it's starting to look like Hillary Clinton won't merely survive this hearing -- she will have come out on top.— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) October 22, 2015
Michael Brendan Dougherty from the Week had a more colorful take on the same theme.
Hillary = Lucy GOP = Charlie Brown Except the football is a grenade and Charlie Brown wrestles until he grabs it, unpins, and swallows it.— Michael B Dougherty (@michaelbd) October 22, 2015
Commentary editor John Podhoretz was so unimpressed with a particular Republican line of questioning in which Rep. Mike Pompeo seemed bizarrely obsessed with why Clinton wasn't in the habit of regularly hosting ambassadors in her house (among other things, they live in foreign countries) that he was ready to proclaim the whole election practically over.
Why doesn't Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now--if he goes on like this he'll practically get her elected— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 22, 2015
Not everyone conservative journalist on Twitter was so downbeat, however.
Indeed, the Washington Examiner's Byron York even thought he saw a coherent argument from the Republicans:
Think what's going on here is Roskam is establishing that Libya was Hillary's deal. Then: After Khadafi, Hillary wanted to tout success…— Byron York (@ByronYork) October 22, 2015
Hillary/State tried to 'normalize' Libya, treat it as if it were a stable country instead of a hyper-violent failed state.— Byron York (@ByronYork) October 22, 2015
So Hillary didn't go along with increasingly desperate pleas from endangered US diplomats in Libya because it didn't fit success narrative.— Byron York (@ByronYork) October 22, 2015
Thus US was woefully unprepared for Benghazi attack. That's theory behind questions.— Byron York (@ByronYork) October 22, 2015
This issue has actually been thoroughly examined by previous investigations (including a fairly scathing State Department internal review), and none of them found support for the conspiracy theory version of events.
That, ultimately, is the big problem for Republicans on the committee. The Benghazi attacks have already been investigated a lot, and while those investigations have certainly revealed flaws in the embassy security process, they just don't show the kind of personal Clinton culpability that would be politically convenient for the GOP. That left many members essentially grasping at straws, and most of the press — including many of its conservative members — impressed with how little ammunition the committee actually had.
Pompeo's second round of questioning was snarky in tone and ineffective in substance. A net negative.— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) October 22, 2015