Almost from the moment it happened, Republicans have tried to score political points from the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That a mistake was made is easily said, but the critics wanted to make a general indictment of U.S. foreign policy.
While voters in November didn't buy it, the GOP uproar did manage to knock U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice from consideration as secretary of state because she had said that protests rather than terrorism had caused the raid. Never mind that she was repeating what the intelligence community had told her and that the fog of war still lay heavy enough to obscure what really happened.
On Wednesday, Republicans had their chance at discrediting the ultimate prize -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the once and perhaps future Democratic presidential candidate. She appeared back-to-back as a witness before the Senate and House foreign relations committees, testimony that was more eagerly awaited because it had been delayed because of her recent illness. Unfortunately for the political opportunists, she came back fit and feisty.
This was Ms. Clinton's last testimony on Capitol Hill, and if anyone thought they could discredit her whole career over Benghazi they were dreaming. They certainly tried, but Madame Secretary with her heavyweight knowledge of the world outmatched the featherweight understanding of the likes of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the most scathing of her inquisitors. Her complaint that the budgets for the State Department and security had been cut by Congress was a devastating retort to those who are quick to complain but are slow or unwilling to put money where their mouths are.
It is the nature of war -- conventional or otherwise -- for mistakes to be made, and for that reason it is rare that single tragic events are subject to such close congressional scrutiny. While a full appraisal of Ms. Clinton's term as secretary of state is still to be written, these politically charged hearings are unlikely to harm her reputation, not now and not in the future if she runs for president.