Did we see a glimpse of our political future? Hillary Clinton vs. Marco Rubio in 2016on January 24, 2013 @ 9:17 am (Updated: 9:37 am - 1/24/13 )
In the midst of the main stage drama, we might have caught a glimpse of our political future.
I know we just inaugurated a President three days ago, but in the world of politics, it's never too soon to speculate about the next election.
On Wednesday, it wasn't just a Secretary of State in the hot seat over the death of a U.S. Ambassador in Libya, it was also the last chance for Republicans to rough up the early frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for President. Hillary Clnton is stepping down from her post as soon as John Kerry is confirmed.
Republicans did not hold their fire.
"I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility," said Senator Rand Paul. "I think that ultimately with your leaving you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I really mean that. Had I been president at the time and I found you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable."
And Hillary Clinton met fire with fire.
"The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again Senator," said Clinton.
If this was indeed an audition for president, I thought Hillary Clinton came off very well - she was forceful and controlled, emotional when it counted, when she talked about meeting the coffins of the four Americans who died in Benghazi, and to no one's surprise, knowledgeable and experienced. When she was talking about her first-hand experience with the black-masked militias who served as her non-traditional security guard in Libya, you knew she was a hands-on Cabinet member.
But she was not the only potential presidential candidate in that committee room. Florida Senator Marco Rubio topped the most recent Politico poll as the favorite Republican for 2016. With that possibility in mind, it's interesting to note how Rubio conducted himself, in contrast to the more fiery Senators like Rand Paul, John McCain, and Ron Johnson.
Rubio by comparison was the model of politeness. He asked pointed but relatively neutral questions, probing ever so modestly.
"One of the things that I'm most interested in exploring with you today a little bit is how information flows within the state department and in particular in hindsight, looking forward how we can prevent some of this happening. So I was curious about a number of things. First of all, were you ever asked to participate in any sort of internal or inner agency meaning before this attack with regard to the deteriorating security situation in Libya?"
Four straight questions in this rhetorically tamped-down vein. And it's not like Rubio can't ramp it up - here he was at the Republican Convention just a few months ago
"So no one misunderstands our problem with President Obama isn't that he's a bad person. Our problem is that he's a bad president. A government that spends $1 trillion more than it takes in. An $800 billion stimulus that created more debt than jobs. A government intervention into health care paid for with higher taxes and cuts to Medicare. Scores of new rules and regulations. These ideas don't move us forward. These ideas move us backwards."
At Wednesday's hearing, Rubio was almost like a grad student asking a professor a question. Now grad students often eventually turn the tables on their professors and that indeed may be what happens in this case. But Wednesday, he seemed more respectful than necessary even, as he patiently heard Hillary out.
So why did Rubio take this approach? He may have given us a clue in his Convention speech when he talked about asking people for advice.
"So I called a few people and asked them, ‘What should I say?' They had a lot of different opinions. But the one thing they all said was, ‘Don't mess it up.'"
Wednesday, first and foremost Rubio didn't mess up. And by the way, neither did Hillary.
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