A String of Good Days for Clinton Lasts Through the 11th Hour

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.53.26 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN Friday, October 23, 2015

Good Friday morning. Thursday added its part to a busy week as Representative Paul D. Ryan officially declared his intent to run for speaker of the House. But for 11 hours of the day, cameras, eyes and live blogs were trained on Hillary Rodham Clinton as she testified before the House committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. 

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign advisers had long expected her testimony before the Benghazi committee to be a high point in her otherwise difficult year.

The day exceeded their expectations.

For 11 hours — or the length of a flight from Europe to Los Angeles — Mrs. Clinton answered questions, some of them virtually shouted in her direction, ranging from whether she was alone in her house during the attacks to how often she used email while at the State Department.

But instead of sticking to the attacks, much of the questioning, starting early on, centered on Sidney Blumenthal, her conspiracy-minded friend who was barred by President Obama’s aides from working for the administration but who sometimes emailed her with advice or with memos he had put together.

In the hearing, Mrs. Clinton kept her tone even and her manner grave as she repeatedly said her focus was on the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attacks.

I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together, she told the committee members.
The committee’s chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, often sounded defensive, saying in his opening statements, repeatedly, that the inquiry was never meant to target Mrs. Clinton.
Yet Democrats believe that the images played on cable television all day — of mostly male, white Republicans grilling Mrs. Clinton — could only help her.
After a recent streak of good days — a strong debate performance, and the news that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. would not be seeking the nomination — Mrs. Clinton’s path is clearer, but not totally clear.
The F.B.I. is still investigating the security of the private email server she used while secretary of state, another frequent line of questioning at the hearing, and her poll numbers in head-to-head matchups with several Republican candidates have taken a large hit over the last few months. Her aides say they feel that they have the wind at their back, but also know they have work still to do.
Those issues are for days ahead. As for yesterday, Mrs. Clinton outlasted her questioners, and Mr. Gowdy, addressing reporters afterward, struggled to identify any new information gleaned during the hearing.