Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
To the surprise of no one, the Republicans’ four-year partisan inquisition surrounding the terrorist attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya, is likely ending with a whimper. With the House Select Committee on Benghazi finally releasing its findings, and the report representing the eighth and (likely) final government investigation into the deadly event, the Benghazi hoax, as sponsored by Fox News for four years, finally comes to an impotent and ignominious end.
Early indications are that the report, as expected, provides no major revelations. Already undercut by a report from Democratic members of the Benghazi committee that further debunked right-wing myths about the attack, the GOP’s long-awaited Benghazi report is in danger of being met with collective shoulder shrugs.
Even Donald Trump seems relatively uninterested in kicking the Benghazi can around the campaign trail this year. Yes, he’s made a couple passing references to it and implied grave misdeeds by Hillary Clinton. But there’s been no serious push on his part to highlight the GOP’s endless pursuit. (Last year, Trump actually criticized the Republicans’ investigations as being incompetent.)
So if Benghazi isn’t being used as an election year battering ram against the Democrats, what has been the point of committee chairman Trey Gowdy’s comically extended inquiry? Anybody with a pulse and a political calendar realized that the final GOP Benghazi report, with its 2016 summertime release, was designed to disrupt Clinton’s White House run. Why else would the committee’s work be extended for two-plus years when it likely could have been completed in six or seven months? (Two years to hold four hearings?)
Unsure they could defeat Clinton at the ballot box, and lately even more unsure that Trump is competent enough to run a White House campaign, Republicans were hoping and praying for an investigative intervention to stop Clinton.
It ain’t happening with Benghazi. But anyone who followed the facts, or who reads Media Matters, knew that a very long time ago.
The whole mindless, partisan endeavor shines a light on what’s gone completely wrong with the Republican Party and the right-wing media. It’s about how shallow, endlessly debunked conspiracies and money-sucking investigations have replaced any attempt to govern and legislate.
The fact that the GOP’s Benghazi gotcha pursuits have stretched through the entirety of Obama’s second term, and that Obama stands poised to leave office with surging approval ratings, tells you all need to know about the crippling disconnect between the right-wing media and the real world today. (Fox’s Eric Bolling: “I think Benghazi's a much bigger scandal than Watergate.")
But let’s never forget that the Beltway press claims partial ownership of this slow-motion fiasco, too. The press certainly owns the first three years of the Benghazi charade when journalists breathlessly amplified every slipshod allegation leaked from Republicans on Capitol Hill, or followed Fox News’ lead in hyping an endless series of supposed revelations about the attacks. Sometimes we couldn’t tell who was more anxious to uncover an Obama or Clinton-related “scandal,” the press or partisan conservatives.
If I had to estimate, I’d say it took until October 2015 -- three entire years of Benghazi news dead ends -- before the D.C. press mostly conceded there’s no there there with regards to this so-called scandal. It took Hillary Clinton testifying for 11 hours on Capitol Hill and Republicans completely unable to advance, let alone confirm, their wild conspiracy theories before the press largely seemed to acknowledge the futility of the whole enterprise. (Accidental truth telling in 2015 by some GOP House members regarding the motivation about the Benghazi committee likely also convinced reporters the endeavor was largely a scam.)
Meanwhile, here’s some distressing context. I wrote this more than 1,300 days ago:
Benghazi has entered the realm of churning, right-wing myth making. (Think Waco and Vince Foster). The story has become completely detached from reality, and the twisted narrative feeds off itself with constant misinformation that's repeatedly presented as 'fact.'
I certainly never thought in the fall of 2012 that four years later I’d still be pointing the Benghazi hoax and highlighting the obvious absurdity of the pursuit. Overall, Media Matters has posed hundreds of fact-checking items on Benghazi and we’ll continue to do so as long as conservatives cling to the fantasy. But that will be much harder to do now without a congressional inquiry to give the wild claims shape.
The larger point is that Republicans and Fox News have wasted untold time, money and energy pushing a thoroughly discredited pipe dream about how Obama and Clinton are supposedly monstrous people who chose to let four Americans die at the hands of Islamic terrorists and then lied about it. Worse, Obama watched video "in real time" while the terrorists snuffed out American lives. "Support wasn't given," in the words of Karl Rove.
Vile, vile lies.
This whole endeavor has been a depressing reflection on how broken the conservative movement has become, and also how the Beltway press simultaneously takes its marching orders from the scandal-obsessed right wing. Like Republicans, journalists seemed to be eagerly holding out hope for an Obama or Clinton scandal to emerge from the Benghazi investigations.
And of course that faulty blueprint hasn’t just applied to the Benghazi “scandal.” As noted in September last year, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News together spent just as much time covering Clinton’s email controversy as they spent covering the substance of her entire presidential campaign.
If we’re truly bidding farewell to Fox News’ Benghazi conspiracy hoax (fingers crossed), there’s another point about context that’s worth stressing one last time.
I think one way the GOP and conservative media were able to string the serious press along on Benghazi was that they framed the Benghazi terror attack as an almost-unprecedented event in American history (sadly, it was not) and one that exposed unheard of security failures by Obama’s White House and Clinton’s State Department; it was supposedly an epic fiasco that demanded countless investigations.
What the press for most of the last four years refused to do is put the Benghazi terror attack in any kind of historical context.
Consider these facts under President Ronald Reagan:
*September 6, 1983: Two Marines were killed during a lengthy rocket assault on the Marine base at Beirut's airport.
*Oct. 23, 1983: Bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut. A suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives at a U.S. Marine barracks; 241 U.S. service personnel were killed.
*Sept. 20, 1984: Bombing of U.S. Embassy annex. A truck bomb exploded in Aukar, northeast of Beirut, outside the annex, killing 24 people, including two U.S. military personnel.
During an 18-month span, U.S. facilities in and around Beirut were attacked by terrorists four times, killing 330 people, including 262 Americans.
There was exactly one congressional investigation into the Beirut debacle.