When the lights come up on the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Thursday, only one truth likely will emerge from the hearing: The panel has lost all legitimacy in its zeal to damage Hillary Clinton. Republicans should cut their losses and disband this partisan witch hunt.
Almost a year ago, the House Intelligence Committee — a group controlled by Republicans with a reputation for seriousness — debunked conspiracy theories that have dominated GOP conversations since the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate. The panel found that career intelligence analysts, not senior officials, made mistakes that left the compound vulnerable to attack by terrorists.
Other investigations into the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues have included congressional reviews and an independent panel of experts commissioned by the State Department. No damning evidence was found.
That conclusion didn’t live up to partisan Republicans’ desire to expose some kind of cover-up. Nothing short of calculated lies by President Barack Obama or then-Secretary of State Clinton would satisfy their political blood lust.
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So Clinton answers questions for yet another Benghazi panel Thursday, but this time things are different.
At its inception in May 2014, the select committee’s motives were suspect. Now there’s no need for suspicion. Republicans themselves have admitted their real motives.
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who wanted to be House Speaker, recently stumbled into truth-telling. He directly linked the committee to efforts to damage Clinton’s presidential ambitions. Just like that, his promotion went poof.
Even conservative publications chided him. The Washington Times, while still crusading for the committee, said McCarthy “boasted like a schoolboy to an interviewer” about the panel’s work to put Clinton on a slippery slope.
Other conservatives did not learn from McCarthy’s mistake. Kansas’ Rep. Mike Pompeo of Wichita, who serves on the Benghazi panel, one-upped the politicization by suggesting Benghazi was worse than Watergate. Failing to heed the proviso that such comparisons are odious, Pompeo huffed and puffed to boost his own ambitions for speaker. It’s unattractive, politically tone-deaf and embarrassing to his home state.
Given these and other revelations, the tables have turned. Clinton no longer is on the defensive. Her new talking point is that Republicans are more concerned with ruining her than beefing up security at foreign outposts.
The select committee has rung up a bill of $4.6 million. It may be wistful, but imagine the good that money might have accomplished if shared by the victims’ families or used to add security abroad for our embassies.
As Clinton testifies, she gets a national forum to remind Americans she grieves for her lost colleagues and is the target of a political attack, not an honest investigation. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the committee, can give her that opportunity if he really wants. If he and the rest of the GOP are smart, though, they will close down the select committee post haste.
The American people expect Congress to use its widespread investigatory powers to get to the bottom of genuine scandals and complex issues, not as a sledgehammer in partisan political battles.