Testing the (Super)Woman: The Larger Context of Benghazi

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

As Hillary faces hours of grilling by a discredited and partisan Republican-led committee, it is important to view her testimony in context. As the first woman with a viable shot at the White House, Hillary is being subjected to tests that would demolish any male candidate:

  • Incessant media criticism with good news portrayed as bad, bad news portrayed as terrible, fabricated polls and GOP-fed spin
  • Poison-penned pundits with national platforms and axes to grind
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars spent by conservative oppo groups using focus-grouped negative frames
  • Deeply ingrained institutional gender bias that has barred ALL women from the U.S. presidency
  • Vicious and misogynistic rightwing trolls who spew Hillary-hate 24/7

All this and Hillary is the prime target of 20+ other candidates. 

It is no secret that women are held to higher standards than men:

Women CEOs among the Fortune 500 are found to have stronger qualifications than their male counterparts, according to a new research report by American Management Association (AMA). 

AMA examined the backgrounds and experience of Fortune 500 CEOs, of which 4.8% are women, an all-time high. Female chief executives were found to have earned more rigorous academic degrees, have greater work and life experience when first appointed, and proved more often to have worked their way up internally.  

“These statistics seem to show that women are held to different if not more demanding standards than men,” said Jeremey Donovan, Chief Marketing Officer for AMA, who authored the report. “What we learned suggests this applies to women at all levels. For instance, despite the fact that since 1982 more women than men have graduated from U.S. colleges with a bachelor’s degree only 1.1% earn $150,000 or more compared to 4% of men.”

In Hillary’s case, the higher standard is nearly a superhuman one – she is being made to endure more negativity and surmount greater hurdles than all other candidates combined.

The fact that she survives and thrives is a tribute to her indomitable spirit.

In the big picture, the Benghazi hearing, like the manic obsession with her emails, is yet another challenge in Hillary's American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course of a campaign. No other candidate has to deal with anything remotely like it.

We’ve covered the committee’s debacle in its ugly details, so keep this post handy as you watch the proceeding:

Play By Play: The Spectacular Implosion of the Benghazi Committee  

Here are two more useful links:

A handy guide to Benghazi from our friends at Correct the Record. 

From Newsweek: A Comprehensive Guide to One of America’s Worst Political Outrages

We'll conclude with a nugget from the Newsweek piece:

Congress convened 22 hearings about the 9/11 attack that killed almost 3,000 citizens working in the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan; this week, Congress will be holding its 21st hearing about an attack that killed four people working in Libya, with many more sessions left to come. Do Republicans actually think that terrorists killing four agents of the government who willingly assumed the risks of residing in one of the most dangerous places in the world is more important than terrorists murdering 3,000 unsuspecting civilians who were working at their offices in New York City?

We'll be live-tweeting Hillary's appearance, so follow us: Peter, Tom.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.