Polman: Goodbye Benghazi sleuths
To quote poet T. S. Eliot, the House Select Committee on Benghazi finally folded its tent Tuesday — "not with a bang, but a whimper."
Most of us — with the exception of paranoid conspiracy theorists and fact-impaired trolls — have long assumed that this partisan Republican concoction would fail to nail Hillary Clinton for the deaths of those four Americans at the Libyan outpost in 2012. We have not been disappointed.
None of the previous investigations unearthed any evidence that Clinton, in her role as secretary of state, had done anything perfidious or criminal. The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, in its 2014 report, had found no such evidence. The Senate Intelligence Committee found no such evidence. The Senate Armed Services Committee found no such evidence. The House Foreign Affairs Committee found no such evidence. The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee found no such evidence. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee found no such evidence.
Nor did the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nor did Benghazi investigator Thomas Pickering, a three-time ambassador who served Ronald Reagan, who concluded way back in 2013 that nobody in the Obama administration — Clinton or anyone else — had tried to conceal anything for political purposes. In Pickering's words at the time: "The notion of a, quote, 'coverup' has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction."
At a cost to the taxpayer of $7 million — money that would've been better spent shoring up the U.S. embassy security that Republicans profess to care so much about — Gowdy's panel basically told us what we've long known already. I'm frankly too bored with this topic to detail the redundant findings, but suffice it to say that there was no politically motivated attempt to play down the terrorism angle.
In fact, Gowdy was asked if there was any evidence at all that the military could've saved those lives?
His reply: "I don't know."
Yes, that T.S. Eliot poem captures the essence of those Republican sleuths:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw
And thus ends the probe that took longer than investigations of Pearl Harbor, the 1983 Beriut bombing, Iran-Contra, 9/11 and George W. Bush's "weapons of mass destruction" con job in Iraq.
Why in the world was this latest Benghazi panel created in the first place? Kevin McCarthy, a House Republican leader, gave the game away last October when he accidentally revealed, "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."
Three weeks later, the committee grilled Clinton on live television for 11 hours and never laid a glove on her. All they got, as a video moment, was the coughing fit she suffered near the end, which prompted this headline on the right-wing Drudge Report: "Hillary Health Warning." And last I checked, her "numbers" have been climbing anyway — at least when matched against Donald Trump, who is viewed by a landslide majority of Americans as unfit for high office.
Nevertheless, as we well know, Gowdy's nothingburger won't sate appetites on the Republican right. As the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote more than a half-century ago, there is "a paranoid style in American politics," characterized by "heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy."
Which probably means we'll get a new Benghazi committee to investigate the unfinished work of this Benghazi committee.
Perhaps there are ways to link Benghazi to the death of Vince Foster. Someone should look into that.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Pennsylvania.