Stanford: Benghazi committee should stand down
At least they're not pretending anymore.
The Benghazi Select Committee is nothing more than a taxpayer funded opposition research group determined to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. Investigating the attack on our consulate in Benghazi might have started as a way to show that Barack Obama was weak on national security, but after seven investigations and 13 hearings, Benghazi has become Hillary Clinton's Whitewater.
Until the gaffe by U.S.Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., however, congressional leaders did a good job of pretending the Benghazi Select Committee, which has spent $4.5 million over 72 months, was seeking the truth about Benghazi. Now, that's impossible.
What happened was that Fox's Sean Hannity was pressing McCarthy for a single reason why Republican voters should not feel betrayed by their congressional leaders. McCarthy flailed. He offered up the 50 votes to repeal Obamacare. Hannity scoffed. McCarthy mentioned the shrinking deficit. Hannity talked over him, which in retrospect might have been a blessing.
Finally McCarthy found an accomplishment that passed muster with Hannity:
"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," said McCarthy.
"I agree," said Hannity. "That's something good. I'll give you credit."
It's easy to forget that the email scandal is a byproduct of Benghazi, which was the first attack on our country that instantly became grounds not for unity but for partisan politics.
The speed at which Mitt Romney blamed Obama for the Benghazi attack was shocking. He appeared so suddenly before the press that night on September 11, 2012, that he didn't even take the time to straighten his hair. Romney was so quick to seek political advantage from an attack on an American consulate that not only did he not wait until the bodies were buried but he didn't even wait until they were counted. Partisan politics went well beyond the water's edge that day.
Obama won, but Benghazi lives on. The Benghazi Select Committee has devolved into a naked attempt to bring down Hillary Clinton. The Select Committee has not yet held a hearing with anyone from the Defense Department, but has questioned eight current or former members of the Clinton campaign.
The Select Committee isn't trying hard to hide what it's up to, but it's a model of discretion compared to the Republican Party. In 2014, the GOP's congressional arm put up a fundraising webpage to "hold Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama accountable for their actions." Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Select Committee, complained at the time, but the website only came down last week when the Clinton campaign pointed out that they were still raising money off Benghazi.
The last time we went through all of this was late in Bill Clinton's second term, when congressional Republicans investigated Bill Clinton for an old real estate deal but impeached him for lying to a special prosecutor about cheating on his wife. What the Republicans could not do at the ballot box they attempted to do by perverting the legal process, turning politics into prosecution.
Now here we are again. Republicans are not even waiting for Hillary to win before ginning up a political prosecution. And they've long since lost interest in parsing the details about what happened in Benghazi. This is Whitewater, except with emails.
The Select Committee has been meeting for 72 months, making it the longest congressional investigation ever, longer than congressional probes into Watergate, 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Kennedy assassination.
The problem isn't the Clintons. The real scandal is that Republicans are so outraged that they can't beat them that they'll do anything to stop them, and they're only too happy to use your tax dollars to fund their political operation. If there's a grownup left at the Republican National Committee, it's time to give the Benghazi Select Committee a stand down order.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman and a Democratic consultant.