I haven't been able to watch the Benghazi hearings, but I've checked my Twitter feed, and the lefties who've been watching are 100% convinced that Hillary Clinton has been wiping the floor with the Republicans who are trying to take her down.
The righties in my feed have a very different perspective. They have what they want: a soundbite they can rip from context and use as a cudgel to beat the administration and Secretary Clinton with. I'm not sure if they really expect their efforts to color mainstream coverage of this story, but it's clear that that's what they're hoping. They have a new "you didn't build that," a new "spread the wealth around," and they're going to wring everything they can out of it.
Clinton erupted as Senator Ron Johnson tried to press her on why details about the nature of the attack weren't released sooner.
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she said. "Was it because of a 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 our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. The fact is that people were trying, in real time, to get to the best information."The point of this is: Look, bad guys killed our people. You're arguing about whether the nature of the attack was initially mischaracterized. I just want the bad guys found and brought to justice, no matter how the attack unfolded.
But, of course, the ripped-from-context quote is "What difference, at this point, does it make?" It's already being seized on by National Review and Fox News and The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard and Glenn Beck's Blaze and Michelle Malkin's Twitchy and the Free Beacon and, of course, Breitbart. There's already a popular hashtag, #whatdifferencedoesitmake.
Now, sometimes these things never attain any more than shibboleth status -- they're secret codewords right-wingers use whenever they talk about a particular Antichrist of theirs. This will definitely attain that status -- years from now, when Hillary publishes her memoirs or announces a run for president, folks on winger message boards will write "What difference does it make?" and not even bother to put the phrase in context, because all the like-minded readers will just know.
But sometimes these things do more damage. Sometimes they really do color how a story is covered outside the right-wing bubble. Will that happen this time? Will the wingers be able to turn this decontextualized soundbite into a deceptive sign of Secretary Clinton's indifference?
This is an Andrew Breitbart/James O'Keefe tactic, but its use is not limited to O'Keefe and the carriers of the Breitbart torch -- this is a mainstream GOP tactic. The entire party and all its coat-holders are on board.
Here's the soundbite in context. The attempt to distort what Clinton said may not be more than a minor irritant. But righties are going to work this for quite a while.