PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff came to bury the Benghazi committee on Thursday night’s program. “What difference does it make” seemed to be her Hillary-echoing mantra. Or in her case, it was “Why does it matter?” Lies? Coverups? Who cares about that?
She brought on Anne Gearan of The Washington Post, a routine defender of Hillary’s, and Yochi Dreazen, formerly with The Wall Street Journal news pages and now with Foreign Policy magazine, owned by....The Washington Post Company. Get a load of this exchange:
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Yochi Dreazen, did we learn anything more about how she made — how those decisions were made and her role in what finally happened?
YOCHI DREAZEN: I think the most interesting moment by far was when Congressman Jim Jordan was saying to her, in some detail, that you, Secretary Clinton, told your family in one e-mail that this was an attack linked by al-Qaida, that you said in a phone call with an Egyptian leader that this was not something tied to an anti-Muslim video, and then saying, but the talking points coming out of the White House at the time were, this wasn’t al-Qaida and this was linked to this video.
I thought that was the most effective and sort of new moment in the entire line of questioning. And her answer back wasn’t terribly strong. Her answer back was, they were still sifting intelligence. We were trying to sort our way through it. But she couldn’t quite give the direct answer why she was saying in an e-mail something very different than what was being said publicly.
WOODRUFF: But, for the audience, why does it matter? Why did that — why does it matter whether she was saying one thing? Because she tried to say, well, I was trying to warn other countries. We didn’t want to see this thing happening anyplace else.
There you have it. A journalist asking “Why does it matter if she told the truth to her family and lies to the families of the victims at Andrews Air Force Base, or lied to the media about a YouTube video? Why does it matter Hillary skipped the Sunday shows so Susan Rice could be the poster child for lying about the YouTube video?" This is Woodruff rejecting Journalism 101, choosing politics over expecting the honesty of public officials. Dreazen’s answer:
DREAZEN: So, the Republican charges basically are two parts. One is, she ignored security, so, substantively, she could have done more to make the compound safer, and then much more damaging from their point of view is that the White House basically lied. They’re saying the White House knew one thing, for political reasons, they said something else, and there’s a cover-up, and she was a major part of that cover-up.
That’s basically what they have been trying to say now for three years, that she deliberately misstated what she knew to be the cause of the attack, and these e-mails were their best attempt today to try to make that point again.
Woodruff then changed the subject, asking Anne Gearan, "the Hillary Clinton campaign right now, they obviously had some worry going into this hearing. What was their strategy?”
Then she went back to how this committee would wrap it up:
WOODRUFF: So, Yochi Dreazen, what comes out of this? Where does this lead? I mean, after she has testified, the committee goes on. What do they do with this information?
DREAZEN: So, some of the numbers just on the hearings, it’s astounding. This is the 21st hearing on Benghazi. By comparison, there were 22 public hearings on 9/11. So, just to compare the two, 22 on 9/11, 21 on Benghazi. The investigations are thought to have cost about $5 million. This has been going on now 17 months. It’s not clear to me or I think to really any observer what is new that could still be found.
Dreazen said a similar thing at the segment’s very beginning: “And if you were watching the hearing today, you’re not hearing anything new. These questions have been asked again and again. The answers were given again and again. Basically, what you saw almost from the beginning were Democrats and Republicans literally yelling at each other. This wasn’t like an august hearing designed to try to get down to something we didn’t know. This was politics, pure and simple.”
“Politics, pure simple” is a good definition of how PBS managed this story.