I want to know what Hillary Clinton’s yoga routine is.
After finally walking out of the never-ending hearing in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi, Clinton flexed and told a reporter “yoga always helps” when asked how she lasted through nearly half a calendar day of vitriolic redundancy.
As the former Secretary of State prepared to testify Thursday, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, insisted that this investigation was not a witch-hunt, as it has been repeatedly called, by telling Clinton, “I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you. Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This investigation is about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil.”
He then proceeded to spend the next eleven hours using those four tragic deaths to try and derail Clinton’s campaign for president. It was not a surprise this was the driving force behind the committee, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy all but admitted in September, when he bragged the committee had dragged down Clinton’s poll numbers.
Eleven hours and a committee total of $4.7 million spent in taxpayer money later, and we learned nothing new about Benghazi (not that we really expected to, given that there have been eight investigations prior to this one). In between Democratic committee members reciting what were practically campaign ads for Clinton, we heard a lot about the emails sent on her private server, the emails with longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal, the fact that Clinton didn’t just conduct business over email, misunderstandings about the chain of command, and oh yeah, more about those “damn emails.”
When all was said and done, Clinton came out looking confident, calm and, frankly, presidential, as several media outlets have pointed out. She avoided saying anything that could be isolated in a soundbite and taken out of context, like the “What difference does it make?” episode after her 2013 testimony on Benghazi.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Clinton’s performance is that she somehow managed to strike the perfect balance of somber and substantive, to the point where media and committee members couldn’t even make a sexist comment about “theatrics” or her emotions.
When Clinton became emotional speaking about the deaths of the four Americans during the 2013 hearing, CNN was quick to point it out and insist it was because she was suffering from “exhaustion,” not real human emotion. The “theatrics” comment came from Sen. Ron Johnson, who claimed her emotional response was a premeditated move to “get out of” responding to his questioning.
Those comments are unsurprising. We see it all the time. If a man cries, he is called sensitive and brave for showing his emotions. If a woman cries, those are either delicate lady tears that can’t possibly run a country or a manipulative ploy to get out of something serious. If a man gets angry, he is standing up for himself. If a woman gets angry, she is shrill and volatile. Look no further than the front page of the New York Post the day after the 2013 hearing for an example of that one.
Hillary Clinton in particular has been the target of these double standards time and again, whether they be about her judgment or her pantsuits. This hearing is the first time in recent memory where I have not heard (and correct me if I have just not come across it) some offbeat comment in the mainstream media insidiously linking her gender to her performance.
And what did it take for Clinton to be freed from misogynistic remarks? The superhuman endurance of remaining perfectly composed through 11 straight hours of mind-numbing interrogation.
Though the majority of the panel’s questioning was a moronic partisan disaster, had Clinton raised her voice, or become more emotional or showed anything other than relatively mild annoyance, I doubt the media would be singing the same song. Right now, even conservative pundits grumble that the panel tried to hand her the nomination on a silver platter. Had Clinton shown any more “weakness” than her coughing once — most news outlets remarked that its solitude was a sign of her stamina, but they all pointed it out — there would have been headlines about her theatrics, her emotions or her inability to keep up.
Yes, the Republicans gave her a gift by bestowing on her the opportunity to prove (once again) how she has more brainpower than several people in the room combined, but she also had to strike that perfect balance for her performance to have the effect it did, both with the panel and the public.
While Clinton’s performance was remarkable, it shouldn’t take that amount of prodigious self-control for a woman to avoid scrutiny over how she carries herself. Clinton may have done enough sun salutations to keep calm during that test of human patience. But if she had shown visible anger, like she did in 2013, maybe we would ask ourselves: who wouldn’t have?