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“Wine Wednesday’s”: The Tide Turns Against The Benghazi Committee

Could this be the time when Benghazi finally turned from a liability to an asset for Hillary Clinton? If so, it’ll be because the issue has now become less about what the select committee Republicans set up to investigate the matter has found, and more about the committee itself.

Perhaps this would have happened even if House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hadn’t admitted two weeks ago what everyone already knew, that the driving purpose of the select committee was to harm Hillary Clinton’s political prospects. That one statement has had a remarkable political impact, torpedoing McCarthy’s bid to become speaker of the House, giving Clinton the opportunity to start attacking the committee in ads, and apparently making lots of people in the press decide that the time has finally come to start taking a serious look at what this committee has been doing for the last 17 months.

No news outlet in America has been more fervent in its pursuit of Hillary Clinton than the New York Times, but take a look at this article on their front page today, about how the select committee has all but abandoned Benghazi to focus almost entirely on trying to find something damaging on Hillary Clinton:

The committee has conducted only one of a dozen interviews that [committee chairman Rep. Trey] Gowdy said in February that he planned to hold with prominent intelligence, Defense Department and White House officials, and it has held none of the nine public hearings — with titles such as “Why Were We in Libya?” — that internal documents show have been proposed.

At the same time, the committee has added at least 18 current and former State Department officials to its roster of witnesses, including three speechwriters and an information technology specialist who maintained Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.

Add to that the story of Bradley Podliska, the former committee staffer who is suing the committee, saying he was unjustifiably fired for, among other things, serving his Air Force reserve duty and seeking to continue investigating Benghazi when the committee turned all its attention to Clinton’s e-mails. (Gowdy denies Podliska’s claims.)

When John Boehner created this committee a year and a half ago, he was insistent that there was nothing partisan about it, and pointed to the appointment of Gowdy, a former prosecutor, as proof that the investigation would be serious and substantive. I was skeptical at the time about how much sober professionalism Gowdy would bring to the proceedings — his principal qualification seemed to be an eagerness to shout angrily at witnesses during hearings — and nothing that has happened since has proved me wrong. The Times story is full of juicy details about the committee’s work, or lack thereof (“Wine Wednesdays” sounds like fun), and contains this interesting tidbit:

Mr. Gowdy said in the interview last week that he had pressed Mr. Boehner to have another House committee examine the matter of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, but that Mr. Boehner had rejected the request.

“I would have liked nothing more than for the speaker to find another committee,” Mr. Gowdy said.

Senior Republican officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing confidential conversations, said that Mr. Boehner had long been suspicious of the administration’s handling of the attacks and that Mrs. Clinton’s emails gave him a way to keep the issue alive and to cause political problems for her campaign. But he thought that the task was too delicate to entrust to others and that it should remain with Mr. Gowdy, the former prosecutor.

That’s significant because not only are Democrats talking to reporters about why this committee is a mess, Republicans are too. Any time you see a passage like this, with competing interpretations of what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s a good bet that people are maneuvering to shape public perception to their advantage, and it can become a little hard to know for certain where the truth lies. But it looks like Gowdy, perhaps with the help of allies, is trying to say, Look, this mess isn’t my fault, it’s Boehner’s.

Maybe it was inevitable that this committee would become either a joke or a scandal in its own right, given the fact that it was established after seven separate investigations had already examined the events of September 11, 2012 in Benghazi and failed to find any administration wrongdoing or support for all the outlandish conspiracy theories conservatives had clung to. In the future, when asked about what the select committee accomplished, Republicans will probably say, “They discovered Clinton’s e-mails!” And that’s true. But what does that represent, substantively speaking?

Was there something in those e-mails that told America what really happened in Benghazi? No. Was there something in those e-mails that finally proved the scope of Hillary Clinton’s villainy? No. I’m not trying to defend Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account, but about the most shocking thing we’ve learned from the actual e-mails is that Clinton, like every other person on the planet with an e-mail address, got phishing spam, a revelation that when leaked to the press was passed along with lots of “Clinton E-mail Targeted By Russian Hackers!” headlines.

But what we haven’t learned is anything new that the committee has discovered about — now see if you can follow me here — Benghazi. That was, you may recall, the whole point of this exercise. So what has Gowdy’s committee found that all the previous investigations didn’t? Anything at all? What do we now know about what happened on that night that we didn’t know before?

The answer so far is: nothing. Now maybe if they take another 17 months and another few million dollars, they’ll finally blow the lid off the conspiracy. But if they’re trying to argue that the committee exists only to learn the whole story about Benghazi, then it has clearly been a failure. If the committee exists only to hurt Clinton, as Democrats have been saying all along and now even some Republicans admit, then it may turn out to be a failure on that score as well.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, October 12, 2015

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, House Select Committee on Benghazi, John Boehner, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Using Loved Ones As Props To Bolster Political Ambitions”: GOP Must Stop This Charade And Apologize To Benghazi Families

What many thought was true has been confirmed this week: The GOP-created House Select Committee on Benghazi is nothing more than a partisan effort to hurt Hillary Clinton and help the Republicans in the 2016 presidential race.  At this point the House leadership should do the right thing and offer a public apology to the families of the four Americans killed in that terrorist attack for using their loved ones as props to bolster their political ambitions.  Plus the GOP House leadership should reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the nearly $5 million spent on this “investigation,” which in essence is nothing more than a negative campaign commercial against Hillary Clinton.

The committee’s charade first began to publicly unravel two weeks ago with the remarks of House majority leader Kevin McCarthy.  While in the comfy confines of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, McCarthy made the case for how a Republican controlled Congress helps create a “strategy to fight and win” elections.

McCarthy, who at the time was still in the running for the House speakership, explained to Hannity, “Let me give you one example: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?”  McCarthy then bragged, “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 to make that happen.”

On one hand you have to applaud McCarthy for his brutal honesty. That ‘s rare today in Washington from politicians in either party.

But McCarthy was not the only Republican insider to tell us this week that the GOP committee is part and parcel of the Republican’s 2016 campaign to defeat Clinton. We heard that exact sentiment expressed in even greater detail Sunday morning by Maj. Bradley Podliska, a self-described conservative Republican, who served as an investigator for the committee for ten months.

Podliska explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper that the committee’s leaders’ obsession with Clinton was so acute that they pulled resources away from probes of other individuals and agencies to focus on the likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. This troubled Podliska, an intelligence officer, who joined the investigation “to get the truth to the victims’ families.” But he added, thanks to the GOP’s partisan agenda in conducting this investigation, “The victims’ families are not going to get the truth, and that’s the most unfortunate thing about this.”

The use of government apparatus to go after political enemies sounds like something right out of Richard Nixon’s’ playbook. The difference being that Nixon, when using agencies like the FBI and IRS as political weapons against his rivals, was less obvious and more secretive – until he got caught, of course.

Look, McCarthy and Podliska’s comments simply confirm what many have long believed about this committee’s agenda. After all, before this committee was created in May 2014, there already had been eight congressional investigations into the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, most headed by Republicans.

These thorough investigations answered all the questions surrounding the attack and offered recommendations to try to ensure another like this would not occur. For example, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee report released in February 2014 definitively found that there was no “stand down” order ever given to the CIA or military (despite what Fox News will tell you) that prevented them from trying to save the four Americans killed.

Yet despite these extensive congressional hearings, including the testimony of Hillary Clinton, hundreds of pages in reports generated by both GOP-led and bipartisan committees like the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report released in January 2014, and at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars, the GOP-controlled House authorized the current investigation.

At this point, the House select committee’s investigation into Benghazi has spanned more time than the congressional hearings on Watergate and the Warren Commission’s probe into the assassination of President Kennedy, and they are now just two months shy of surpassing the time it took to complete the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.

Now just so it’s clear, some of the Benghazi investigations already conducted have pointed fingers at the State Department and White House. For example, the bipartisan U.S. Senate report concluded that the attack could have been prevented and singled out the State Department for failing to bolster security.  That’s certainly a legitimate issue and no doubt it will be raised in the 2016 campaign if Clinton wins the nomination.

But the current House investigation is politics at its worst. They are using the memory of the four brave Americans killed, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty, for political gain.

And not only should the House leadership reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the $4.5 million dollars spent by this committee, the Federal Election Commission should review the situation to determine if the money would be considered an “in kind” contribution to the Republican National Committee. There could be certain reporting requirements triggered if that were the case.

Hillary Clinton may still testify as planned on October 22 before this committee. If she does, I hope she asks the committee chair Trey Gowdy if he will apologize to the families of the dead Americans. It’s the least the Republicans can do after using the memories of four brave Americans to help bolster their political ambitions.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, October 12, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s All Benghazi”: Many In The Media Consider It Uncouth To Acknowledge The Fraudulence Of Political Posturing

So Representative Kevin McCarthy, who was supposed to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House, won’t be pursuing the job after all. He would have faced a rough ride both winning the post and handling it under the best of circumstances, thanks to the doomsday caucus — the fairly large bloc of Republicans demanding that the party cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, or kill Obamacare, or anyway damage something liberals like, by shutting down the government and forcing it into default.

Still, he finished off his chances by admitting — boasting, actually — that the endless House hearings on Benghazi had nothing to do with national security, that they were all about inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton.

But we all knew that, didn’t we?

I often wonder about commentators who write about things like those hearings as if there were some real issue involved, who keep going on about the Clinton email controversy as if all these months of scrutiny had produced any evidence of wrongdoing, as opposed to sloppiness.

Surely they have to know better, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And surely the long history of Clinton nonscandals and retracted allegations — remember, there never was anything to the Whitewater accusations — should serve as a cautionary tale.

Somehow, though, politicians who pretend to be concerned about issues, but are obviously just milking those issues for political gain, keep getting a free pass. And it’s not just a Clinton story.

Consider the example of an issue that might seem completely different, one that dominated much of our political discourse just a few years ago: federal debt.

Many prominent politicians made warnings about the dangers posed by U.S. debt, especially debt owned by China, a central part of their political image. Paul Ryan, when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee, portrayed himself as a heroic crusader against deficits. Mitt Romney made denunciations of borrowing from China a centerpiece of his campaign for president. And by and large, commentators treated this posturing as if it were serious. But it wasn’t.

I don’t mean that it was bad economics, although it was. Remember all the dire warnings about what would happen if China stopped buying our debt, or worse yet, started selling it? Remember how interest rates would soar and America would find itself in crisis?

Well, don’t tell anyone, but the much feared event has happened: China is no longer buying our debt, and is in fact selling tens of billions of dollars in U.S. debt every month as it tries to support its troubled currency. And what has happened is what serious economic analysis always told us would happen: nothing. It was always a false alarm.

Beyond that, however, it was a fake alarm.

If you looked at all closely at the plans and proposals released by politicians who claimed to be deeply worried about deficits, it soon became obvious that they were just pretending to care about fiscal responsibility. People who really worry about government debt don’t propose huge tax cuts for the rich, only partly offset by savage cuts in aid to the poor and middle class, and base all claims of debt reduction on unspecified savings to be announced on some future occasion.

Debt, it seems, only matters when there’s a Democrat in the White House. Or more accurately, all the talk about debt wasn’t about fiscal prudence; it was about trying to inflict political damage on President Obama, and it stopped when the tactic lost effectiveness.

Again, none of this should come as news to anyone who follows politics and policy even moderately closely. But I’m not sure that normal people, who have jobs to do and families to raise, are getting the message. After all, who will tell them?

Sometimes I have the impression that many people in the media consider it uncouth to acknowledge, even to themselves, the fraudulence of much political posturing. The done thing, it seems, is to pretend that we’re having real debates about national security or economics even when it’s both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place.

But turning our eyes away from political fakery, pretending that we’re having a serious discussion when we aren’t, is itself a kind of fraudulence. Mr. McCarthy inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty, but telling the public what’s really going on shouldn’t depend on politicians with loose lips.

Sometimes — all too often — there’s no substance under the shouting. And then we need to tell the truth, and say that it’s all Benghazi.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 9, 2015

October 12, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Federal Debt, Political Media | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Big Benghazi Backfire”: The “Alpha House” Portrayal Of A Politically Motivated Hatchet Job

In the life imitating art department, the hilariously funny Amazon series “Alpha House” has right wing Sen. Peg Stanchion (Janel Moloney) proposing a “permanent Benghazi Committee.” She also brings a loaded gun into the Capitol with a group of tea party supporters to brandish her support for the Second Amendment, shutting the Capitol down.

And now we have the speaker-to-be, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, admitting that the charade of eight investigations into Benghazi was keyed to bringing Hillary Clinton down. As they say, the truth comes out, not only that there was no conspiracy or wrongdoing on Benghazi but that the “Alpha House” portrayal of a politically motivated hatchet job was the goal all along.

Big surprise.

One thing that the hard-core Republicans know is that there is only one way to go after Hillary Clinton – make it personal. They know that they can not defeat her on the issues: who fights for the middle class; who favors comprehensive immigration reform; who supports expanding college education for working families; who has a plan for family and medical leave; who supports a higher minimum wage; who has a record of standing up for kids, their health and education. Make it about scandal, even if you have to make it up. Go negative early and often.

The Republicans know that the demographics are killing them: fewer and fewer angry white males, more and more diversity. How can they win a national election when they lose Hispanics, blacks and Asians by nearly three to one? How can they be a majority party when they are viewed as intolerant towards the GLBT community, when young people find their ideas old and tired, when women understand what being anti-women’s health and anti-Planned Parenthood really means?

So the Republicans in Congress continue to believe that Benghazi and Clinton’s emails are their ticket and they appropriate more money for investigations and create more committees to request more documents. The Benghazi probe has now lasted even longer than the investigation into Watergate.

The New York Times editorialized that it is time to shut down the Benghazi committee. It even suggested that the House Republicans “should rename their laughable crusade ‘the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton.'” Benghazi investigations have cost American taxpayers $4.6 million, more than critical committees, including the intelligence and veterans’ committees, according to the Times. All for one reason: to attack Hillary Clinton.

Of course, McCarthy’s statement tells it all: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”

The sarcasm and humor of “Alpha House” and the Freedom Caucus imitation had it basically right. A permanent Benghazi committee (or at least one that lasts through the elections) may be what the real House Republicans were thinking!

But the American people are catching on. They get the joke that is suddenly not so funny. They are beginning to see the investigations for what they are: an effort to destroy the integrity, the character and the commitment of a serious and very capable public servant. This is not about issues or helping make our embassies more secure or serving the memories of those killed, it is a tawdry political trick.

The Benghazi investigations are backfiring and one can hope that on Oct. 22 when Hillary Clinton appears before the committee and the big lights and cameras go on, the American people will see what they saw so many year ago during the Army-McCarthy hearings. On June 9, 1954, after 30 days of hearings, the notorious Joseph McCarthy was confronted by the attorney Joseph Welch with these famous words: “Senator, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency.”

Decency, indeed.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, October 7, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Death Rattle Of A Fake Scandal”: It Turns Out That The “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” Has Been Right In Front Of Our Eyes

To hardly anybody’s surprise, it turns out that the “vast right-wing conspiracy” has been right in front of our eyes. Always was, actually, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s politically disastrous on-air admission made plain. Or maybe you thought a seventh Benghazi investigation lasting as long as the Pearl Harbor and JFK assassination probes combined was exactly what America needed.

And no, McCarthy’s gaffe wasn’t wrung out of him by a trick question.

“The question I think you really want to ask me,” he volunteered to Fox News lunkhead Sean Hannity, “is how am I going to be different?”

As Speaker John Boehner’s presumed successor, that is.

McCarthy answered himself: “What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. 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.”

No, “untrustable” is not a word. But then words aren’t McCarthy’s strong point. His meaning, however, was clear enough. The man was bragging. The only purpose of the House Select Committee on Benghazi is to inflict political damage on the leading Democratic presidential contender.

Your tax dollars at work.

Never one to miss a chance, Hillary pounced on the Today show:

This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan, political issue out of the deaths of four Americans,” she said. “I would never have done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down.

Her campaign has already released a 30-second TV ad featuring McCarthy’s boasting. She added that having admitted the committee’s partisan agenda, Congress should shut it down. Everybody knows that’s not going to happen.

“Look,” Clinton added, “I’ve been around this whole ‘political situation’ for a long time, but some things are just beyond the pale. I’m happy to go, if it’s still in operation, to testify. But the real issue is what happened to four brave Americans.”

Chairman Gowdy would be well advised to invest in a pair of super-absorbent Depends when Hillary testifies before his committee on October 22. All he’s got is a handful of long-disproved conspiracy theories and selectively edited witness transcripts leaked to the news media to create a false impression.

So he’s an ex-federal prosecutor. Whoop-de-doo. Arkansas was overrun with them during the late Whitewater investigation. All but one of Kenneth Starr’s leak-o-matic staff turned out to be subpar trial lawyers. That one was clever enough to give a closing argument pointing out that Bill Clinton wasn’t on trial because the defendant — his former real estate partner — had swindled him and Hillary.

“The office of the Presidency of the United States,” he thundered “can’t be besmirched by people such as Jim McDougal.”

Any chance of prosecuting either Bill or Hillary over Whitewater pretty much ended right there in May 1996. (The whole story’s told in Joe Conason’s and my e-book The Hunting of Hillary, available for free from The National Memo.)

But no, of course it wasn’t in the newspaper because Washington scribes were stuck to Starr like ticks to a dog’s ear. He successfully diverted attention to subsequent Whitewater trials, every one of which they lost.

Until Bill Clinton bailed them out by taking his pants down in the Oval Office, that is.

But I digress. As the Washington Post‘s GOP-oriented columnist Kathleen Parker points out, Rep. McCarthy has “tried to cram the bad genie back into the bottle, but the damage has been done and can’t be undone….any previous suspicions that Republicans were just out to get Clinton have cleared the bar of reasonable doubt.”

Meanwhile, if Trey Gowdy doesn’t already know that Hillary Clinton’s a lot smarter and tougher than he is, he’s about to find out. Truthfully, they’d be better advised to fold the committee and file some weasel-worded report.

Then there’s our esteemed national news media, repeatedly burned by inaccurate leaks from Gowdy’s committee. The New York Times has run one phony exclusive after another. First, her famous emails were illegal, except they’re not. Then they were contrary to regulations enacted, oops, 18 months after she left office. Next Hillary was the subject of an FBI criminal probe. Except that too turned out to be false. Now they’re making a big deal out of the exact date she changed email addresses. Seriously.

And why? Because as Bill Clinton recently explained to Fareed Zakaria, they’re essentially fops and courtiers, “people who get bored talking about what’s your position on student loan relief or dealing with the shortage of mental health care or what to do with the epidemic of prescription drugs and heroin out in America, even in small towns of rural America.”

Any questions?

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, October 7, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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