Offering no surprises, Thursday’s NBC Nightly News aired glowing remarks for Hillary Clinton’s performance during the House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing with conclusions that she “stood her ground” as it “dissolved into bickering” while she “stayed above the fray” and removing Benghazi from being an issue in the 2016 campaign.
Anchor Lester Holt declared in a tease that Clinton “appear[ed] calm even as tempers erupted” and added after the program’s opening credits that Clinton “has stood her ground in the face of withering Republican questioning” before handing off to Clinton correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell.
In classic Mitchell fashion, she was in full-spin mode for dear Hillary as she lamented that the hearing “was supposed to be about Benghazi, but soon dissolved into bickering.”
Nevertheless, she applauded Clinton for working “to stay above the fray, unlike in 2013” by remaining “poised, practiced, pushing back with put downs.”
Mitchell continued doling out praise for Clinton by alluding to her many facial expressions: “At other times, her face said it all laughing off unwelcome suggestions, showing impatience, irritation or scorn, reflecting days of preparation at home, sent off to battle this morning by her husband Bill.”
While she chided Republicans for arguing with Democrats and focusing on her relationship with confidante Sidney Blumenthal (and ignoring the new details brought to light by Republican Congressman Jim Jordan), Mitchell held Clinton up as being the one who remained on-task: “Clinton who spent the most time talking about the victims of the attack.”
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Providing analysis after Mitchell’s segment, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd predicted that the issue will remain one in the 2016 Republican primary, but won’t carry over to the general election with Thursday’s hearing:
[I]t's a potent issue with the Republican electorate and the Republican primary, so you’re – it is not going to go away in Republican circles, but as a general election issue for Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, it's hard to see that this — that today somehow changed minds in a negative way for Hillary Clinton.
The relevant portions of the transcript from October 22's NBC Nightly News can be found below.
NBC Nightly News
October 22, 2015
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: In the Hot Seat]
LESTER HOLT: Tonight, in the hot seat. Hillary Clinton grilled for hours on the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, appearing calm even as tempers erupted. Will her testimony today put the controversy behind her?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Clinton Testifies]
HOLT: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stood her ground in the face of withering Republican questioning over her handling of the consulate attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi during her watch four years ago. Her answers, her tone, her expressions all under the microscope because as much as it is Secretary Clinton testifying before the House Benghazi Committee, it is presidential candidate Clinton who stands the most to lose in a testy and politically-charged showdown that has continued into the evening. Andrea Mitchell is covering it for us tonight.
ANDREA MITCHELL: It was supposed to be about Benghazi, but soon dissolved into bickering.
MITCHELL: While they argued, the star witness tried to stay above the fray, unlike in 2013.
CLINTON [in January 2013] What difference at this point does it make?
MITCHELL: This time Hillary Clinton was poised, practiced, pushing back with putdowns.
CLINTON: I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book Hard Choices. I would be glad to send it to you, congressman. [SCREEN WIPE] I'm sorry it doesn't fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were. I know that's not the answer you want to hear.
MITCHELL: At other times, her face said it all laughing off unwelcome suggestions, showing impatience, irritation or scorn, reflecting days of preparation at home, sent off to battle this morning by her husband Bill. The Republicans were armed and ready.
MITCHELL: And a fierce dispute over a controversial former Clinton political aide Sydney Blumenthal, barred by the Obama White House from working at her State Department but sending private advice about Libya to her private e-mail account.
MITCHELL: It was Clinton who spent the most time talking about the victims of the attack.
MEET THE PRESS MODERATOR CHUCK TODD: Well, look, it's a potent issue with the Republican electorate and the Republican primary, so you’re – it is not going to go away in Republican circles, but as a general election issue for Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, it's hard to see that this — that today somehow changed minds in a negative way for Hillary Clinton. If anything, you have plenty of Democrats who feel better about Hillary Clinton today than they did yesterday, who of course, felt better about her yesterday thanks to Joe Biden, thanks to her debate performance, so as performance art, she has had a very presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s had a good day, but there has been an awful lot of deflection, Lester and I do think the issue, the larger issue of Libya policy, the large issue of the decisions she made and participated in when came to dealing with the Arab Spring and everything that led to that moment is going to be a relevant topic and tough thing for her to defend during a potential election for her.