I turned on the Benghazi hearings this morning, and within literally two minutes, I realized two problems that the GOP created for themselves.
1) Their leading candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson didn't want to participate in a 3-hour debate because it was too grueling. And none of their fellow-candidates slammed them, perfectly happy to go with the easier, more comfortable 3-hour event. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton agreed to be grilled for 10 hours by opponents out to do their best to shred her and ruin her run for the presidency. And whatever one thinks of her answers, she's handling things with seriousness, specifics and calm. And will be doing this for 10 hours. The contrast in presidential stature was pronounced.
2) When Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) began thoughtfully and pointedly asking serious questions, it suddenly occurred to me that she's running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois against incumbent Republican Mark Kirk. It's a very tough race, and by all accounts Ms. Duckworth is actually leading. And not only leading, but the respected PPP polling firm had her up by six points in late June, Roll Call listed Mr. Kirk in late March -- even before that poll -- as an "underdog," and a Chicago polling firm Ogden & Fray had her up in late July by 16 points. And the GOP just gave Tammy Duckworth (a former Army helicopter pilot in Iraq who has had her two legs amputated and an injured arm) a huge national platform to raise her profile. Prior to this hearing, she's had some national attention, having served in the Obama Administration. But basically, until now, she's largely been a local congresswoman, not even a significant statewide figure. Yet she is still in the lead in the Senate race. And now the Republicans gave her this spotlight.
Few people will remember any specifics from today's hearing, and it's unlikely anything "new" will come up from yet another inquiry. But people will remember that Hillary Clinton sat there for 10 hours and held her own, and they'll remember Tammy Duckworth.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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