A "Laughable Crusade": Media Call Out The "Political Fakery" Of The Benghazi Committee

››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

Media figures and editorial boards are calling out the "political fakery" of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, criticizing it as a "laughable crusade" against Clinton rather than a legitimate investigation into the Benghazi attacks, after two congressmen and an ex-committee staffer admitted to the partisan nature of the committee.

Republicans Admit Benghazi Committee Was Designed To Go After Hillary Clinton

Two Congressmen And  Ex-Benghazi Committee Staffer Admit Partisan Nature Of The Committee. Since September 29, three credible Republicans have admitted to the partisan nature of the House Select Committee on Benghazi and its primary goal of tarnishing Hillary Clinton. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) boasted that the committee had achieved its goal of damaging Clinton's poll numbers during an interview with Fox News about his candidacy for House Speaker. Since then, former Benghazi committee staffer Bradley F. Podliska and a second Republican congressman, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), have come forward and admitted the committee was "designed to go after" Clinton. [Media Matters9/29/1510/11/1510/14/15]

Media Call Committee Illegitimate And A Partisan Crusade Against Clinton

New York Times' Editorial Board: Committee Is A "Laughable Crusade." The New York Times wrote in an October 7 editorial headlined "Shut Down the Benghazi Committee" that the committee a "laughable crusade," asserting that it should be renamed "the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton." The committee, wrote The Times, "has lost any semblance of credibility" and should be shut down:

House Republicans may be disinclined to disband the Select Committee on Benghazi with the presidential race heating up. But at the very least they should rename their laughable crusade, which has cost taxpayers $4.6 million, "the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

[...]

Lawmakers have long abused their investigative authority for political purposes. But the effort to find Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the Libya attacks, was personally responsible for the deaths has lost any semblance of credibility. It's become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans.

[...]

Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee on Oct. 22. The hearing will give Republicans another chance to attack the credibility and trustworthiness of the leading Democratic presidential candidate. It will do nothing to make American embassies abroad safer or help the relatives of the four killed in Libya.

The hearing should be the last salvo for a committee that has accomplished nothing. If the Republicans insist on keeping the process alive, the Democrats should stop participating in this charade. [The New York Times10/7/15]

New York Times' Carol Giacomo: The Committee "Should Be Disbanded." New York Times editorial board member Carol Giacomo called out the "duplicity and political chicanery" of the committee in an October 2 blog post, claiming it has "shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack" despite "wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history." Giacomo called on the Republican-led House to disband the committee and suggested its Democratic members resign if they refuse to do so:

It has long appeared that the Republican obsession with investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya was not a genuine attempt to get the facts behind a tragic incident in which four Americans, including the United States ambassador, lost their lives but a partisan witch hunt targeting Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

[...] 

Now there is proof of the duplicity and political chicanery behind the creation of the Select Committee on Benghazi. It was ham-handedly exposed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, who, in his quest to become the next speaker of the House, couldn't resist boasting about what he considers his party's major political accomplishment.

[...]

Despite wasting $4.5 million and conducting one of the longest congressional probes in history, the committee has shed no significant new light on the Benghazi attack.

[...]

The committee should be disbanded and if the Republican leadership refuses to do that, then the panel's Democratic members should resign. Manipulating government funds for political purposes in this way may well violate congressional ethics rules, as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested. There is little reason to expect that Republicans, united in defeating Mrs. Clinton at all costs, care enough to do anything about it. [The New York Times10/2/15]

New York Times' Paul Krugman: Committee Is Engaging In "Political Fakery." New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that the committee was engaged in "political fakery" and called on the media to acknowledge the partisan nature of the committee:

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?

[...]

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. [The New York Times10/9/15]

Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin: Committee Is A "Political Fishing Expedition." Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin, calling for the committee to be shut down, wrote that it had become a "political weapon" and "a political fishing expedition" for Republicans "that could be used against Clinton":

It was clear from the start that Republicans created the House Select Committee on Benghazi as a political weapon that could be used against Clinton. In case anyone doubts this, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy admitted as much a couple of weeks ago.

[...]

You'd think there were no pressing domestic or foreign issues that deserve congressional attention, no economic inequality, no immigration challenge, no crises in Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan. You'd think there was no better use of taxpayer money than to fund a political fishing expedition.

[...] 

Enough of the emails. Enough misuse of the tragedy in Benghazi. Enough of a House select committee that is giving Congress and a fractured Republican Party another black eye. [The Philadelphia Inquirer10/18/15]

Vox's Jonathan Allen: Committee Is "Abus[ing]" And Threatening The Legitimacy Of Select Committees. Vox's Jonathan Allen noted that the select committees set up by Congress in the past have "proven, at times, to be a very effective truth serum for powerful officials in the past," but "it's being abused now" by the Benghazi Committee, and called the committee "a threat to the effectiveness of a very important congressional check on executive power":

It would be smart politically for Republicans to dissolve the panel before it helps Clinton and hurts them any more. But more important, the committee should be disbanded because it is a threat to the effectiveness of a very important congressional check on executive power. The viability of that tool, the select committee, should be preserved -- even though it's being abused now.

[...] 

So it's taken as a given in Washington that select committees are usually established with a dual purpose in mind: that they will uncover wrongdoing -- usually by the administration of the other party's president -- and that the wrongdoing will hurt the president and his party politically. 

[...]

Congress needs the select committee option to focus attention on grievous wrongdoing by a president or his/her administration. It has proven, at times, to be a very effective truth serum for powerful officials in the past.

[...] 

But the continued operation of the Benghazi committee's three-ring, $4.6 million circus risks making that tool less effective in the future. It simply wasn't designed to investigate things that never happened -- like Clinton bearing primary responsibility for the Benghazi attacks. Select committees can have a partisan edge, but they shouldn't be solely about partisan politics. They should be directed toward solving mysteries for the American public. [Vox, 10/16/15]

The Atlantic's James Fallows: Committee Is Essentially "An Oppo-Research Arm Of The Republican National Committee." The Atlantic's James Fallows wrote that the committee in reality "function[s] as an oppo-research arm of the Republican National Committee, far more interested in whatever it might dig up about or against Hillary Clinton than any remaining mysteries on the four Americans killed in Benghazi":

It has taken mainstream journalism too long a time to catch up with the reality of the "Benghazi Committee," run by Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. (He is from our beloved Greenville, in fact.) The reality is that the Republican staff and majority of the committee have made it function as an oppo-research arm of the Republican National Committee, far more interested in whatever it might dig up about or against Hillary Clinton than any remaining mysteries on the four Americans killed in Benghazi.  

[...] 

What's the next step in dealing with the Benghazi committee? For readers, it is to view upcoming reports as you would others from partisan organizations with an unreliable track record, for instance James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas. What they say could be true, but beware.

And for reporters, it is to recognize the way today's GOP has played on yesterday's reflexes within the press. And don't let it keep happening. [The Atlantic10/15/15]

Slate's Jamelle Bouie: Committee Is About "Tanking Clinton Ahead Of The Election," Not "About Finding The Truth." Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted that, "The committee wasn't about finding the truth behind the attack in Benghazi; it was about tanking Clinton ahead of the election":

But that was before Boehner announced his retirement, and before his assumed successor--House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy--said too much about the actual purpose of the committee. "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable," McCarthy said to Fox News' Sean Hannity. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping."

This connection--between the committee, the email scandal, and Clinton's declining numbers--was debatable. But the words were there: The committee wasn't about finding the truth behind the attack in Benghazi; it was about tanking Clinton ahead of the election. 

[...]

At this point, the House Select Committee on Benghazi is a dead letter. Democrats will dismiss it entirely, Hillary Clinton--in her upcoming testimony--will likely treat it with contempt, and the media will disregard its claims. Indeed, there's a chance this could spread beyond the committee to Clinton's email controversy. [Slate, 10/21/15]

MSNBC's Steve Benen: Even "Most Rabid" Republicans "Are Going To Have A Hard Time Justifying" The Committee. MSNBC's Steve Benen wrote in an October 13 post for the Maddow Blog that, "even the most rabid Republican partisans are going to have a hard time justifying the committee's continued existence":

Taken together, we now have House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) characterizing the committee's work as an election scheme to undermine Hillary Clinton; we have a former Republican staffer for the committee complaining that the committee's sole interest was in tearing down Hillary Clinton; and now we have senior Republican officials acknowledging that GOP leaders directed the Benghazi committee to focus on email server management - instead of, you know, Benghazi - in order to "cause political problems" for Hillary Clinton.

At this point, even the most rabid Republican partisans are going to have a hard time justifying the committee's continued existence. Why should American taxpayers continue to fund such a farcical exercise? (Remember, "because there's an election coming up" is not an acceptable answer.) [MSNBC, 10/13/15]

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