With a self-proclaimed socialist running a credible campaign for president, perhaps the time has come to revive Karl Marx’s wittiest aphorism – although his pungent quip is relevant to Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders.
At the outset of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, the young revolutionary said Hegel had once observed that “all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
That piercing insight can be applied to the “Clinton scandals,” now playing again, courtesy of the Congressional Republicans and especially the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), that committee is hardly the first on Capitol Hill to investigate, at great length and expense, a series of vague accusations against Bill and/or Hillary Clinton and/or various staffers and/or associates. (Indeed, it is the seventh Congressional committee to investigate this particular set of vague accusations concerning the former Secretary of State, with none of the earlier probes finding any evidence of wrongdoing by her in the consulate attack on September 11, 2012.)
Back in 1994, just before the Republicans gained control of Congress in the midterm elections, Newt Gingrich gloated that his agenda as Speaker of the House would include multiple investigations of the Clinton administration, the President, the First Lady, and all their friends and associates. He wasn’t kidding. Whitewater? Definitely. Travelgate? Certainly. Filegate? Absolutely. Even those obviously fabricated tales implicating the president in cocaine smuggling at a tiny Arkansas airstrip called Mena? Of course!
While the national press corps treated all those farcical “investigations” as matters of the utmost gravity, even a cursory glance at the underlying facts would have quickly showed that there was nothing to investigate (as Gene Lyons and I explain in considerable detail in our free ebook, The Hunting of Hillary).
Whitewater was a defunct land deal that cost the Clintons about $45,000 and ended long before his election as president. Travelgate was an inter-office dispute of no consequence to anyone, except the traveling press corps that had enjoyed favors from a few White House employees. Filegate was a complete fake, based on a misreading of a list of former staffers. And no, there was never any evidence that Clinton knew about drug trafficking at Mena. But a presumably sane Republican Congressman from Iowa named Jim Leach pretended to believe it for a while, anyway.
Still these official hoaxes dragged on for months and years, courtesy of the Republican majority and an independent counsel appointed by Republican judges (a position happily eliminated from the statute books when its enabling legislation finally expired). Their aim was blatantly political, even though nobody in the GOP leadership was stupid enough to brag about driving down Clinton’s poll numbers. And they all ended with nothing to show for the millions of taxpayer dollars expended. In fact, the following midterm elections saw the most prominent figures on the Senate Whitewater Committee – Alfonse D’Amato of New York and Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina – abruptly ousted from their seats.
If Whitewater wasn’t quite tragedy, despite the damage inflicted on many innocent people in Arkansas, #Benghazi/email is assuredly farce. Not only has Rep. Kevin McCarthy exposed the scam with his juvenile bragging on Fox News Channel, but now a second Republican member, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) has confirmed that the Benghazi committee was “designed” to “go after…an individual, Hillary Clinton.”
According to the New York Times, the committee’s members and staff occupy their time with a “wine club” and a “gun-buying club,” while issuing subpoenas to Clinton’s friends and associates – and failing to discover anything of consequence about that incident in Benghazi. Gowdy likes to claim that he uncovered Clinton’s use of a private email server – as used by many public officials, including her predecessor Colin Powell – but even that fact, obviously known to many in the Obama administration, had been revealed by a Romanian hacker long before the committee was appointed.
At the first Democratic debate, Sanders turned to Clinton and declared that the American people “are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” Laughing, she agreed. Nevertheless the damned emails will return on October 22, when Clinton appears before the Benghazi committee for a full day in open session to answer the committee’s questions, and say a few words about the committee and its masterminds.
As that date approaches, let’s hope this partisan burlesque, at the very least, provides a few more laughs before its inevitably ignominious conclusion. We’ve already spent more than $4 million in tax revenues on its production, and we’ll never get that money back.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, October 15, 2015
“Wanted: One House Speaker (No Experience Necessary)”: No Work Required, Excellent Benefits, Unlimited Time-Off
When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unexpectedly announced his retirement two weeks ago, many on Capitol Hill feared an ugly free-for-all, with a dozen or more House Republicans hoping to take advantage of the unique opportunity.
GOP leaders, desperate to avoid such chaotic circumstances, moved quickly, rallying behind House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He faced two challengers – one of whom entered the Speaker’s race late – but the unruly mess of a massive field of candidates never materialized.
Instead, a different kind of unruly mess forced McCarthy to quit.
There’s no shortage of questions about what happens now – to the party, to the country – but the most immediate question is who will to try to be the next Speaker of the House.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) threw his hat into the ring yesterday, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is reportedly “considering” it. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Dan Webster (R-Fla.), both of whom took on McCarthy, are very likely to give it another shot.
Rep. Tom Cole’s (R-Okla.) name came up quite a bit yesterday as a more mainstream option, while Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) heard their names floated.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who resigned in disgrace nearly two decades ago, said yesterday he’s open to reclaiming his old post if Republicans rally behind him. (Seriously, that’s what he said.)
And while it’s certainly possible that one of these men may end up as the GOP’s nominee, let’s not pretend any of them are at the top of the Republican wish-list. Politico noted the Republican Party’s favorite.
It’s all about Paul Ryan right now. […]
The Wisconsin Republican is getting bombarded with calls and one-on-one appeals from GOP lawmakers, urging him to be the party’s white knight. Boehner has had multiple conversations with the Ways and Means Committee chairman. Even before he dropped his own bid, McCarthy told Ryan he should do it. And the list goes on: House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) spoke to him about it on the House floor, and Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) also has pushed Ryan to reconsider.
Referring to Ryan, Trey Gowdy said, “I have spent more time trying to talk him into running [for Speaker] than I did my wife into marrying me.”
The Republican Party’s problem is that Paul Ryan really doesn’t want to be Speaker. Almost immediately after Boehner announced he’s stepping down, Ryan quickly made clear he would not run. Almost immediately after McCarthy withdrew from consideration, the Wisconsin congressman once again said he “will not” be a candidate for Speaker.
But this time, the party is pushing him anyway. Boehner was heard saying yesterday that “it has to be Ryan” – even if Ryan himself disagrees.
For what it’s worth, Ryan’s rhetoric shifted slightly late last night, and though different reporters are hearing different things, the Washington Post, citing “top GOP sources,” said this morning that Ryan “is seriously considering a bid for House speaker.”
It’s a miserable job, and Ryan knows it, but that doesn’t mean he’ll ignore the intensifying pressure.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 9, 2015
“There’s Nothing But Chaos In The Republican Ranks”: GOP Leader Shocks Colleagues, Withdraws From Speaker’s Race
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.
The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.
There is a degree of irony to all of this: Benghazi didn’t bring down Hillary Clinton, but it did prevent Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker.
The California Republican faced two challengers for his party’s Speaker nomination, but by all appearances, he had the support he needed to go to the floor as his party’s official choice. As recently as last night, McCarthy’s bid was on track to move forward.
The problem was the looming floor vote on Oct. 29 – the opposition to his promotion from the far-right was significant and he faced a real challenge in pulling together 218 GOP votes.
Even if he prevailed, McCarthy would have immediately taken the gavel and become an even weaker Speaker than Boehner.
A week ago, the landscape seemed relatively clear. The GOP establishment had rallied behind McCarthy, and though there were some questions about the other top posts, we’d have a sense of the new Republican leadership team by this afternoon.
Now, however, there’s nothing but chaos in the Republican ranks. It’s reminiscent of late 1998, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) resigned in disgrace, and his successor, Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.), also had to resign in disgrace after a sex scandal came to light.
The difference now is, the only scandal is the radicalization of Republican politics.
So what happens now? All of the leadership elections that had been scheduled for today have been postponed. The date of the new elections is unclear. McCarthy reportedly intends to stay in Congress – indeed, he apparently wants to keep his Majority Leader position – though it seems everything is unsettled right now.
The party’s establishment will have to rally behind a new standard bearer, though no one has any idea who that might be. All eyes will, of course, quickly turn to Paul Ryan, but the far-right Wisconsin congressman reiterated again this morning that he does not want to be Speaker of the House.
Because House rules allow members to elect anyone for Speaker – including those who are not current lawmakers – don’t be too surprised if GOP officials start looking to potential leaders outside of Capitol Hill.
What’s more, let’s not discount the possibility that John Boehner himself may stick around, indefinitely, while the chaos continues, House Republicans turn on each other, the chamber unravels, and Congress struggles mightily to find a suitable leader.
Finally, I heard one rumor a short while ago, which is admittedly hard to believe, about some less-conservative Republicans turning to Democrats to try to elect a “coalition-style Speaker,” in a scheme that would disempower the chamber right-wing extremists.
It’s far-fetched, to be sure, but after the last 13 days, it’s now best to expect the unexpected.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2015
“Cheney For Speaker”: Let Lord Vader’s Dark Force Make A Dent In Washington’s GOP Leadership Black Hole?
Watching Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy – the current favorite to replace Speaker John Boehner – interviewed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week left my heart and mind empty. Deflated. Much like Washington itself, with its persistent leadership vacuum.
As The Onion rightly pointed out this week with the headline “Boehner Resignation Leaves Massive Leadership Vacuum in Congress Intact,” last week’s announcement by the speaker has served mostly to highlight what we all knew, deep down: Our capital city is in an ongoing leadership crisis. Russia telling the U.S. to get out of the way so that it can drop bombs in Syria this week underscores how dangerous this is.
Filling the Washington leadership vacuum is a very, very tall order. It’s why the Republican presidential contest is such big news – it’s terribly important that our next president be exceptional.
A new House speaker probably can’t come close to filling this urgent leadership vacancy, but it would be nice to come up with a decent stopgap until we have a new president (preferably one who commands respect across the country and around the globe).
So here’s the problem with McCarthy and his attempt to step into this vacuum. He seems like a really nice guy. A guy who listens to all sides. A guy who will try to make sure everyone gets at least a little bit of what they want. A guy who might shed a tear over a touching moment – I think I just figured out why McCarthy leaves me hopeless.
With all due respect to nice guys everywhere (and, to be sure, they need more respect and credit in this world), I must implore House Republicans: Please. Not another one. No more Mr. Nice Guys with Gavels. At this moment in our history, that approach just isn’t working.
Here’s what I have in mind: Instead of another man with a big, mushy heart, how about a man whose critics wonder whether he has a heart at all? Someone who commands respect and fear, is brilliant and decisive, who has literally lived without a pulse and now makes due with a donated heart.
I am, of course, referring to Dick Cheney. And, yes, I am suggesting he be the next Speaker of the House.
The Constitution does not require the House speaker to be an elected House representative (which is why some have already suggested Newt Gingrich return – not a bad idea, but I think Cheney would be even better).
Cheney was in the House for 10 years (1979-1989) and served in leadership during that time. He’s been secretary of defense as well as vice president, so whether you agree or disagree with his foreign policy positions, you can’t deny that he knows the subject matter awfully well. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a leader in Congress who’s the smartest guy in the room on foreign policy but isn’t running for president?
There’s something in this for everyone, seriously. Even if you don’t like the Tea Party caucus – don’t you just know that they will be respectfully scared of Cheney? I can already hear them saying, “Yes, sir.” Cheney is the type mere mortals reference as “sir.”
If the ultra liberals get out of line, well, you know what Dick Cheney will say. (Just ask Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.)
And if you want business to get done in Washington, rest assured Cheney won’t screw around with shutdowns or debt ceilings. He’s a Washington workhorse. He can run things.
On the other hand, if you sympathize with the “we’re not gonna take it anymore” government-shrinking sentiments of the Tea Party, you can be confident that the government won’t be growing on Dick Cheney’s watch, unless it involves defeating some international bad guys.
House GOP: It is time. Admit you have no leader and bring in a ringer – someone who suffers no fools. Someone who is smarter, more decisive, more experienced than all of you. Let Lord Vader’s dark force make a dent in Washington’s leadership black hole.
By: Jean Card, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 1, 2015