Trump's response was: "Were you there? Were you there? Were you with her?" That is, he goes on the offensive. Instead of taking any responsibility for substantiating his charge, he acts like he can get away with saying anything that other people don't step up and disprove.
And Holt lets him get away with that ridiculous debate move. Accepting the defensive position, Holt says: "She has testified before the committee that she wasn't asleep, it happened during the daytime. There's no evidence."
Trump's response is scattershot, mixing the idea that she could have been literally asleep with the argument that "sleep" was really more of a metaphor: "It happened all during the day and the story was going on for a long period of time... and she was asleep at the wheel, whether she was sleeping or not, who knows if she was sleeping..."
My first reaction was: ridiculous! But then I heard something yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" and flipped into thinking that the very ridiculousness of it is a devious trick. Chris Wallace confronted Newt Gingrich about the "soundly slept in her bed" quote:
WALLACE: Now, Mr. Speaker, you can certainly argue about how Hillary Clinton handled Benghazi. But the fact is, the attack happened at 3:00 or 4:00 here in the afternoon in Washington. And she was working late into the night. As I say, there's plenty to attack her on. But why not stick to the facts?The transcript notes "laughter" over Wallace's little joke. And Gingrich jumps past any controversy over whether Hillary was sleeping and sleeping soundly and in her bed. And here's where I want you to see what I saw, that "soundly slept in her bed" is a trap.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I've had different people say different things about what she did that night and what her instructions were. Second --
WALLACE: She wasn't asleep is the point.
GINGRICH: OK. She certainly --
WALLACE: Maybe she should have been, but she wasn't.
GINGRICH: OK. I think that on a lot of things people can argue about that Trump says and that Hillary says, but the objective fact is there were over 600 requests for security from Libya. Now, that number came from the chairman of the intelligence committee, not from Donald Trump. They were ignored. The fact is that in the end, there was no effective effort to respond. The fact is, she clearly lied about why it occurred. And again, you had families of the people who were killed who say she lied to them. So, I think this is a debate — they can get into details of picking a fight with Donald Trump. This is a debate I think they're not going to win, because on the larger framing of the debate, the country is overwhelming going to be with Trump....That is, Hillary Clinton doesn't want to go into the subject of Benghazi. She'd like to close the door on it or view it from a distance as part of her vast collection of experience. But Trump is laying out a particular detail — that she soundly slept in her bed — a provocative lie that Hillary and her proxies will be tempted to try to correct. If they go there, then the specifics of Benghazi are getting talked about again, and it's not good for Hillary.
She and her supporters may think that it's worth it, because it's such a great opportunity to show people Trump's reckless disregard for the truth, but I think he thinks he's placing the winning bet, because: 1. Attention to Benghazi hurts her, 2. He seems to be okay with brazenly standing his ground, and 3. There's the path of retreat to metaphor: She was "asleep at the wheel," unaware and inept, even if awake.
As Chris Wallace's joke had it: What she did was worse than if she'd been sleeping. She should have been sleeping. Benghazi might have worked out better if she'd been out of the picture. That's where that conversation ends up going. So I'm speculating that he threw out a blatant fiction as an irresistible conversation starter.