Benghazi Backfire

The word “credibility’ and the House Selection Committee on Benghazi don’t really belong in the same sentence. Let’s go ahead and ignore the fact that Republicans have spent years throwing gas on the fire of Benghazi conspiracy theories. Their keen interest in this particular tragedy, seemingly plucked out from a wide array of U.S. foreign policy tragedies, makes it easy to suspect that it was chosen for its potential to damage President Obama and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The committee was formed to investigate the 2012 attack on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed. That’s it. They had one job. It began veering off track from its investigative purpose when it shifted focus onto aspects of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state that were totally unrelated to Benghazi. I don’t think it’s unfair to characterize the committee’s actions toward Clinton as a fishing expedition desperately hoping to dig up some dirt that Clinton won’t be able to overcome. After following the clowns running for the chance to face her in 2016, I really can’t blame them.

I don’t think Republicans can run away from the fishing expedition comparison anymore. It was revealed this weekend that the Benghazi committee’s Republican chairman, Trey Gowdy, had fabricated a redaction to Clinton’s emails to make it look like she’d endangered a spy, and the CIA had busted her. Gowdy even used intelligence community lingo, designating the redaction as undertaken to protect “sources and methods,” without disclosing that he was the redactor or that the CIA had cleared the name he redacted for release.

Trying to pull one over on the CIA and the voting public for pure political gain. Talk about walking the party line. Nicely done, Trey.

Conservatives are, of course, ignoring this appalling, flagrant misconduct. But the committee’s errors are starting to form a pretty large pile that Republicans may not be able to ignore them for much longer. Further, the timing of this most recent intentional, egregious blunder is so perfect for Clinton’s public testimony before the committee tomorrow, they may have no choice but to scale back the Hilary misdirection, much as they did in the 90’s when their unfocused obsession with the Clintons damaged their party.

Back in 1998, House Republican leaders had to dial back an investigation into the Clintons’ campaign finance practices after then-oversight committee chairman Dan Burton tried to hoodwink the press with heavily edited transcripts meant to implicate Hillary. That botched operation forced Burton to fire his top aide David Bossie, who went on to become president of Citizens United, and prompted an angry backlash from Speaker Newt Gingrich on behalf of an embarrassed Republican conference.

These most recent committee credibility questions are at least as severe. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already admitted what everybody knows, but no Republican is supposed to say out loud: that the GOP’s Benghazi fixation has always been designed to damage Hillary Clinton.

Back in September, McCarthy shared this gem with Sean Hannity on Fox News:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

Not to mention  well-substantiated allegations that Republicans have been using committee resources to investigate Clinton at the expense of the actual attacks on the U.S. facility in Libya. Maj. Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican, was fired after nearly 10 months as an investigator for the Republican majority, is now preparing to file a lawsuit against the select committee next month, alleging that he lost his job in part because he resisted pressure to focus his investigative efforts solely on the State Department and Clinton’s role surrounding the Benghazi attack.

Exploiting tragedy and dragging out a misguided investigation strictly for political gain. The Benghazi investigation has now gone on longer than the Watergate investigation. Glad to see everything is on the up and up.

Of course, social media and the chance of short video clips going viral makes it much easier for lengthy events like congressional hearings to be defined by big moments rather than their entirety. So if the Republicans are able to stick it to Hillary a few times tomorrow that will probably outweigh any damage the committee may suffer to its reputation.

For over forty years now, Republicans have been dying for the Democrats to be taken down by their own version of Watergate and they are willing to go to any length to make that happen. Too often, though, their investigations evolve into partisan witch hunts which forces them to eventually pump the brakes and call off the dogs. The Benghazi committee is flirting with the same fate.

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A lucky man. Also a lawyer. Classic oxymoron.

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