I don’t know when USA Today’s Jack Gruber snapped this shot of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at yesterday’s Benghazi hearings. Was it when Rand Paul waxed hypothetical about his delusions of presidential grandeur? Or did the raised eyebrows signal Clinton’s interest after Senators and Representatives from both parties repeatedly joked about her plans for 2016? If anything, Wednesday’s hearings—and their corresponding images—boosted, rather than quelled, Clinton’s presidential prospects.
Republicans came to the hearings loaded for bear—no doubt viewing the sessions as an opportunity to both discredit the Obama administration and cripple one of the Democrats’ strongest 2016 contenders. Perhaps they thought Secretary Clinton would be easy pickins after her recent hospital stay and much publicized exhaustion.
Instead, she was at the top of her game, displaying a wide range of emotions during hours of testimony without being dismissed as “emotional.”
Clinton answered questions assertively, pointing (both literally and figuratively) to the facts as established by impartial investigators. The lines on her forehead connote authenticity (no Botox there) and experience. Although her green suit was both distinctive and fashion forward (emerald is the Pantone color of 2013), it also serves as a subtle signal of her personal and political independence. Whereas Obama combined red and blue, choosing purple to signify the post-partisanship he failed to achieve, Clinton’s green draws from a different palette, suggesting growth, maturity, and continued vitality.
When Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) charged that the administration had “intentionally misled” people about what triggered the attack, Clinton became instantly animated, gesturing defiantly and even pounding on the table as she rebutted his assertion. The show of force was spontaneous and brief, suggesting that Clinton’s passion was paired with the appropriate degree of discipline. This photo visually depicts that dynamic, as one hand rests calmly next to the briefing book and the other gestures forcefully toward the panel.
For the majority of the hearings, however, Clinton was more sanguine—even bored, as Senators and Representatives ate up the majority of their question time with protracted monologues and political grandstanding.
At yesterday’s hearings, Clinton conducted herself with presidential gravitas. She was confident, candid, collegial and—when necessary—combative. Like a good commander-in-chief, however, her ire was reserved for those who impugned patriotic citizens and public servants, and she capably deflected charges of political immediacy back onto those who questioned her competence. A few times, she was even unguarded enough to laugh. Although Clinton takes politics, public policy, and diplomacy very seriously, these pictures suggest that when it comes to facing her critics, Hillary Clinton may, indeed, get the last laugh.
by Karrin Anderson | @KVAnderson
(photo 1: Jack Gruber, USA TODAY. photo 2 & 3: J. Scott Applewhite/AP caption: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly attack on US diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. photo 4 & 6: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP. photo 5: Via: @michaelhayes/Twitter via Buzzfeed.)