If you want a clear picture of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Benghazi testimony before Congress last week, skip the full ordeal on C-SPAN and watch the laborious spin attempt in the aftermath. It was a risible experience, born of incoherence and quickly metastasizing into cheap tropes of feminine wiles. Clinton could only have been more treacherous and deadly if she'd walked into the GOP's office and hired it for $25 per day, plus expenses, to find her missing brother.
Something went wrong with whatever passes for conservative policy these days, and the response was a confused flight to the familiar politics of sexual divisiveness. There might have been big ideas lurking around somewhere, but in the fog of war one can always run to a cheap bit of moral clarity: chicks ruin everything, man.
Clinton's grilling was an intellectually null affair, like a bad baccalaureate examination in reverse, in which the grad student is the only one who's done the reading, while the committee uses questions as a crib sheet. One expected someone to begin a question with, "Give me the Cliff's Notes version, if you will, of that whole embassy murder thing."
Half of Clinton's alleged malfeasance could be described as "things Susan Rice did." Rice went on the Sunday chat shows and said that the Benghazi attack was inspired by a repugnant anti-Islam video on the internet. She was wrong, but taking a best guess when people demand answers hardly confirms a malicious intent to deceive—or, supposedly, to downplay terror threats to undercut the Romney campaign. In any case, indignation at being misled is still a bit rich coming from the sorts of humps who backed whatever nonsense Dick Cheney and a circle of organized Pentagon lobbyists said in unison on those same chat shows.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) in particular fulminated against Clinton's failure to call the Benghazi compound and get the "real" story. If Johnson's aim was to suggest a total failure of security on Clinton's part as Secretary, pointing up the devastation would have done him more favors than thinking Benghazi had a coherent ground assessment and communications structure. Being peeved that Hillary Clinton couldn't get on the America blower and tell someone to patch her through to Smokingcrater-4-5789 only downplays the nightmare of violence done to people and the compound. It also omits embarrassing but galvanizing details—like the fact that people at one point were relying on the private internet communications of a Benghazi State Department worker, SomethingAwful.com moderator, and Eve Online player to figure out what happened when.
The bigger mess came from watching security theater and budget theater slamming into each other like two lineman, without anyone bothering to mention that they are on the same team and that you don't beat the opponent by scrimmaging with yourselves at them. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) offered the apotheosis of this, apparently in high dudgeon about neglecting the security of Americans in the State Department despite the fact that he called for its budget to be thoroughly gutted.
(Then Paul wandered on to some conspiracy theory about the Benghazi station being a smokescreen for secret arms shipments to Syria. It's an idea that originated from one of those days where Glenn Beck riddles out the gutless Commie threat to the universe by drawing the General Electric org chart on a chalkboard.)
Paul claimed that this was the worst terrorism act since 9/11, which probably seems a bit much to the families of contractors in Iraq who were beheaded or tortured and had their bodies hung in the street. But his melodrama points to a bigger struggle at the heart of GOP theater: namely, that you can't be the party that claims it can make everyone safe, simultaneously, in every aspect of the Global War on Terror and also be the one that refuses to pay for it. This might be a different discussion if Benghazi were the only embassy to ever worry about adding temporary security, but that's a weekly story at points around the globe.
In the last century's pre-Goldwater era, the Republican Party offered a refreshingly intelligent and cohesive foreign policy attitude. Anti-interventionism staked out a position against imperial executive power derived from a permanent military, while also embracing fiscal responsibility. The ability of a president to intervene whenever and wherever he chooses requires an overweening faith in the wisdom of one man while demanding higher tax rates or lower domestic spending.
That Republican Party didn't attend Clinton's hearings. Faced with a president whose military and foreign policy is basically "his predecessor's but with bigger words"—kill lists, expanded drone strike theaters, sanctions on Iran, a "surge," empty finger-wagging at Israel while maintaining all other forms of support and selling them the bunker-busters that Bush denied them—the GOP foreign policy has devolved into "whatever the opposite of what the president is doing." Sadly, "Nuh-uh," is not a credible counter-argument, but this is how you get people who screamed bloody murder about intervention in Libya now screaming bloody murder that we didn't have more resources there. Or people who spent eight years defending the man who was president on 9/11 likening a death toll roughly 1/750th as large to the carnage of that day.
In the absence of coherence, you attack the messenger. John McCain condemned Clinton's testimony as untruthful (without specificity) and claimed that she was let off the hook because "she obviously has an adoring media. She really didn't answer any questions." This is the same John McCain whose entire kitchen glassware set is 32 Meet the Press coffee mugs.
Oddly it was New York Post's headline that summed up the day's events best, running back to the "Hillary is a bitch" well. This was slightly better than Allen West referring to her being hospitalized for a blood clot in her head as "the Benghazi Flu," but it went hand in hand with Johnson insinuating that Clinton's tears at the beginning of her testimony were rehearsed.
This is how the culture war machine works. When you can't score points or are unsure how to try to, you run back to the zero-sum rhetoric that keeps Rush Limbaugh in smuggled Viagra. You didn't look silly by having your opponent be far better versed in the record than you. You got lied to by a bitch. Bitches lie. Their biggest lie of all is tears. They're the reason our dicks are getting smaller. They're gonna cut your balls off for equality.
The next thing you know, they're going to humiliate you by staring at you when you poop. You will be unmanned by their smoky gaze. They will even endanger the nation. And, let's be honest, this is way more interesting than talking about adequate budgetary resources for global security threats to our diplomatic stations or seamlessly developing combat diversity by focusing on task cohesion over social cohesion.
We don't have to have a thoughtful conversation about Americans in Benghazi or Americans in foxholes, because we can derail that conversation into one about the exploitation of one group of Americans by another. The cliff under men's feet is being steadily eroded by tide of salted Jezebel tears shed in bad faith. From the top down, women are ruining proud traditions, like answering questions of grandstanding party hacks or getting shot to death while shitting into a ditch.
[Image via Getty]