BY JOE CONASON
Ever since House Speaker John Boehner unveiled yet another committee to investigate Benghazi – the eighth congressional panel to investigate that September 2012 tragedy, along with a State Department Accountability Review Board – suspicions have festered that its purpose was purely partisan and political.
Even Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace sounded skeptical when he interviewed the speaker last February:
Wallace: “Finally, you have set up a select committee to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there have been about a half dozen investigations; the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee basically said there was no there there – like this last year. Some people have questioned: Is all of this an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign?”
Boehner: “No, Chris, it’s – the idea here is to get the American people the facts about what happened.”
But on the evening of Sept. 29, the amiably dim Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, fully vindicated those original suspicions during an interview on Fox with Sean Hannity. Attempting to defend the departing Boehner, whom he is touted to succeed as speaker, McCarthy highlighted what he considers the outstanding achievement of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” said eager beaver McCarthy. “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 that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”
Or in plain English: We brought down Hillary Clinton’s polling numbers by dispatching a select committee to pursue her – and Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman, has done a great job! The equally dim Hannity naturally agreed.
For the rest of us to fully understand this craven betrayal of the solemn responsibilities entrusted to congressional leadership, let’s begin with Gowdy’s own remarks on the day that his committee’s work began last January.
“I remain hopeful there are still things left in our country that can transcend politics. I remain convinced our fellow citizens deserve all of the facts of what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi and they deserve an investigative process worthy of the memory of those who died and worthy of the trust of our fellow citizens.
“The people we work for yearn to see the right thing done, for the right reasons, and in the right way. They want to know that something can rise above the din of politics. They want to trust the institutions of government. So to fulfill the duties owed to those we serve and in honor of those who were killed perhaps we can be what those four brave men were: neither Republican nor Democrat. We can just be Americans in pursuit of the facts, the truth, and justice no matter where that journey takes us.”
“Above the din of politics” is an inspiring phrase, but what has ensued ever since – as anyone paying attention already knows – is nothing more than a long series of partisan leaks and other shenanigans by the Republican majority and its staff, all plainly designed to ruin Hillary Clinton by any means necessary.
There is little doubt, for instance, that Gowdy’s crew was behind the false “criminal referral” leak last summer that so badly embarrassed its enthusiastic recipients at The New York Times. The committee members spent hours [and taxpayer dollars] behind closed doors, grilling Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal not about Benghazi, a topic on which he had no personal knowledge, but about his work with Media Matters for America and American Bridge. Of approximately 550 questions posed to Blumenthal, less than two dozen concerned the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
In fact, the pertinent questions that Boehner and Gowdy claimed to be exploring were already answered by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by now-retired Rep. Mike Rogers, R-MI. The HPSCI report concluded last November that there was no “stand-down” order, as Boehner once claimed, no intelligence failure, and no inappropriate conduct by any responsible officials before, during, or after the terrorist assault.
Sometime next year, Gowdy will have to account for the fruits of his “investigation,” which by last June had already had expended almost $4 million and will have required far longer to complete than the congressional probes of the Iran-Contra affair or the Watergate scandal. It will surely be amusing to see how he justifies this wasteful circus.
Only three weeks from now, however, he will face the formidable Clinton in a daylong open hearing. As of today, that event is framed not by her email controversy, but by the blurted confession of McCarthy – who exposed the malignant abuse of congressional authority that Gowdy has sought to conceal.
– Joe Conason’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer