There are few experiences more intimidating than having to testify before a congressional committee, on camera and under oath, about something that went horribly wrong on your watch. You are surrounded by photographers—to your left, to your right, a dozen on the floor pointed at your chin, and a few more behind you, their lenses aimed at the back of your head. Arrayed on the dais—a few feet higher to emphasize their authority—are a dozen or more politicians eager for the chance to play prosecutor. For at least half of them, this will be a zero-sum game: They look good when the witness looks bad.
It's no surprise, then, that this is a gauntlet that many current and former officials over the years have sought to avoid—either by sending a deputy, claiming executive privilege (if they work directly for the president), or negotiating with the committee to speak privately, off-camera and out of the spotlight.
Not Hillary Clinton—at least not anymore. The former secretary of state, having just officially launched her second campaign for the presidency, practically begged the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, to allow her to testify in public. Gowdy wants to question her about the 2012 terrorist attack and her much-criticized decision to use a personal email server during her tenure at the State Department and then to wipe it clean after leaving office. Yet in an equally puzzling move, Gowdy initially said no: He demanded that Clinton first come in for a private interview about the emails, an arrangement that he said would, among other things, "best protect the secretary's privacy."