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“Republicans Punish Their Own For Speaking The Truth”: Sometimes, The Biggest Sin You Can Commit In D.C. Is To Tell The Truth

“A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” — journalist Michael Kinsley

So another Republican congressman has come forward to admit that his party’s Benghazi obsession is little more than an undisguised effort to damage the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.

In a radio interview on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) defended his colleague, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had acknowledged that obvious truth as well.

“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth. This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual: Hillary Clinton,” said Hanna.

Well, of course. Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention already knows that the unending series of Benghazi “investigations” began as a way to embarrass the administration of President Barack Obama, including his then-secretary of state. When Clinton announced her presidential campaign, the investigations began to center on her (and are now more focused on her use of a private email server).

If you only dimly recall the origin of the GOP battle cry “Remember Benghazi!” it started with a tragedy. On Sept. 11, 2012, Christopher Stevens, then U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in separate assaults by Islamic jihadists on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.

The incident deserved a thorough probe to see whether there was anything that could have been done to prevent the deaths of diplomatic personnel in the future: Was security too lax? Intelligence ignored? The area too dangerous for diplomats?

But in the days after the deaths, it became clear that leading Republicans were much more interested in scoring their own attacks on Democratic targets than investigating the “Battle of Benghazi,” as it has been called. For one thing, they focused on such superficial and unimportant details as whether Susan Rice, then the president’s national security adviser, had clearly described the assault as “terrorism” or merely extremism. It’s not at all clear what difference that makes, but that line of attack derailed any shot she had at succeeding Clinton as secretary of state.

With that, Republicans were emboldened. And they haven’t given up their efforts to sink some notable Democrat with even a tenuous link to Libya and its national security implications.

They’ve not had any luck so far. After seven congressional and two executive-branch investigations, there has been no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, malfeasance or cover-up. The last was an exhaustive probe conducted by the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee; it found no evidence that either the U.S. military or the CIA had acted improperly. There was no delay in sending a military rescue team, as many conservatives have insisted.

So there was no genuine surprise at what McCarthy told Fox News in a September interview:

“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,” McCarthy told Sean Hannity.

Still, he paid dearly for the slip. Criticized by Republican leaders for dropping the gauzy veil over their nakedly partisan smear campaign, he was forced to abandon his plan to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the house.

McCarthy was supposed to keep up the pretense that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is conducting a high-minded probe free of partisan tilt. And that pretense continues. Clinton will appear before the committee later this month.

If there is any better example of the excessive and stultifying partisanship that has laid waste to Washington, it’s hard to know what that may be. After all, it can hardly be considered shocking that an American diplomat was killed in a dangerous country full of Islamic militants. Tragic, gut-wrenching, awful, yes. Shocking, no.

Still, the GOP’s listing and rudderless Benghazi ship — white whale on the horizon — sails on.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, October 17, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, House Intelligence Committee, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Scandalizing Hillary”: If The First Time Is Tragedy, Then The Second Time Is…

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

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Burning Down The House”: Newt Gingrich’s Mean-Spirited Republican Party Lives On In Donald Trump And The House GOP

This is the House that Newt Gingrich built as speaker, in front of us, still alive and well. The house that Donald Trump is building for us all will feel a lot like Newt’s, but more palatial, with more gold “TRUMP” signs all over.

Trump’s leading presidential candidacy is no fluke, but the direct result of Gingrich’s fiery ascent to House speaker in the 1994 Republican revolution. Fueling each: angry white men who feel disenchanted by the political order. They make a potent force, and the rest of us should beware and prepare.

The House that Newt built in 1995 was full of angry white Republican men, the majority that ran on the so-called “Contract with America.” I saw the whites of their eyes in the Speaker’s Lobby off the floor. As a rookie reporter, I liked to ask them to tell me their favorite points of the contract – if they even remembered them. Often, they didn’t.

Policy was not their strong point, as they stormed the house of American democracy. Many in the new majority were from the South and Midwest. Gingrich personally recruited them to be candidates.

One other thing stood out: They did not accept the constitutional authority of the president. Especially not Bill Clinton. They came loaded for Clinton – the fire of their fury daily stoked by Rush Limbaugh, who was honored as the class of 1994 mascot at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Yeah, they lavished love on one of the best haters of our time. It was remarkable to witness.

John Boehner, the shallow House speaker who’s stepping down soon, was a lieutenant in Newt’s army, which came to power 20 years ago. He was more than just a placeholder for Gingrich’s Republican revolution; he supported its churlish know-nothingness toward immigrants and women’s rights, and its insurrections against the president – this time, Barack Obama. The press tends to paint him as a sympathetic son of an Ohio “barkeep,” but he’s just one of the boys.

The wind blowing the aggressive Trump into his confounding first place in the Republican primary trails? It’s all in that tornado in November 1994. Overnight, the House and the Senate changed hands to Republican control. The sea change was stronger in the House. It was remarkable to witness and worth remembering.

Brazen and mean-spirited, the House class of 1994 came to Washington ready to burn down the House. An anti-government force, many slept in their congressional offices. It’s a charming Republican custom and another way to disrespect Washington. As Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who almost became speaker, would tell you: Don’t ever act like you belong here, to this House.

McCarthy got consumed by the beast Newt started: The House Republicans seem to hate governing so much that they can’t govern themselves. Meanwhile, Trump still sails on the winds of rage.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, October 13, 2015

October 15, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Newt Gingrich, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“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

“Why Clinton’s Debate Dominance May Change The 2016 Race”: A Timely Reminder Of Just How Formidable Clinton Really Is

Even Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters would concede the last few months have not gone according to plan. Relentless media criticism, coupled with a surge of excitement surrounding Bernie Sanders and his progressive agenda, have weakened Clinton’s standing as the campaign has unfolded.

But just as importantly, it’s shaken Democrats’ confidence. To be sure, Democratic insiders and loyalists are an easily panicked bunch, but in recent months, certainty over the strength of Clinton’s candidacy evolved into doubt – a dynamic that created a vulnerability that has nearly lured Vice President Biden into the race.

With this in mind, Hillary Clinton not only dominated last night’s debate in Las Vegas, it arguably changed the direction of the race.

Going into last night, the former Secretary of State was confronted with headwinds: Clinton was perceived as the faltering frontrunner, burdened by a “scandal” no one can identify. Over the course of two impressive hours, however, Clinton emerged as a sure-footed, quick-witted, presidential-level powerhouse.

There’s simply no credible way Biden or any of his boosters watched the debate and saw an opportunity for the V.P. to seize. For that matter, Republican officials, increasingly confident about their general-election odds, received a timely reminder of just how formidable Clinton really is.

The intra-party argument over debates also took a turn last night. For months, a variety of Democratic insiders and candidates have complained that the DNC has scheduled too few debates, probably in the hopes of shielding the frontrunner. Last night turned the whole argument on its head – Clinton is easily the best debater, in either party, running in this cycle.

I was generally sympathetic to the Clinton campaign’s strategy – likely nominees always want fewer debates – but if I were her campaign manager, I’d start exploring the possibility of scheduling as many of these events as humanly possible. A one-debate-per-day plan through the fall of 2016 would probably be beneficial.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how last night could have gone much better for Clinton. She effectively went on the offensive over guns; she adeptly used President Obama to inoculate herself against criticism of her 2002 Iraq vote; she crushed a question about big government by slamming Republicans on reproductive rights; and she even turned a comment about a bathroom break into a charming moment.

And what of the emails? Clinton knew the question was coming, and she took full advantage of the opportunity Republicans created for her.

“I’ve taken responsibility for it. I did say it was a mistake. What I did was allowed by the State Department, but it wasn’t the best choice. And I have been as transparent as I know to be, turning over 55,000 pages of my e-mails, asking that they be made public. And you’re right. I am going to be testifying. I’ve been asking to testify for some time and to do it in public, which was not originally agreed to.

 “But let’s just take a minute here and point out that this committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee. It is a partisan vehicle, as admitted by the House Republican majority leader, Mr. McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise. And that’s what they have attempted to do.

 “I am still standing.”

As effective as this was, moments later, Bernie Sanders brought down the house with this memorable line: “Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

The entire “controversy,” such as it was, unraveled before our eyes into a manufactured, partisan, faux-scandal.

As for the bigger picture, Republicans must have been discouraged by Clinton’s strong showing, but I hope they also noticed how much better last night’s debate was than anything the GOP candidates have shown in their events. On every front, the exchanges in Las Vegas showed Democratic candidates better prepared, more substantive, and more knowledgeable than their far-right counterparts.

During the debate, Politico’s Glenn Thrush noted on Twitter, “The level of discourse – nuance of discussion – compared to the GOP debates? Not even close.” The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel added soon after, “[W]atching this debate after slogging through all the Trump debates is like moving from kindergarten into grad school.”

Hillary Clinton won big last night. Republicans lost.

 

By; Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Democratic Presidential Primaries, GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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