Hillary Clinton is wrong about the Benghazi committee.
It’s not the longest-running special congressional investigation ever, as the Hillary campaign tweeted. According to PolitiFact, other congressional probes have lasted a lot longer than 17 months, including hearings on the conduct of the Civil War (40 months) and the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. (30 months).
But Hillary Clinton is also right about the Benghazi committee.
It has nullified itself.
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The Republicans created the committee in 2014, but it soon became clear it was going to stretch into 2016 as a way to torment Hillary during campaign season and keep her back on her heels after the Republicans had picked a candidate.
Then Kevin McCarthy went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, spilling and crowing about how the Republicans had put together the Benghazi committee to tar the Democratic front-runner as “untrustable” and drag down her numbers.
In that moment, Hillary shook off her bad juju and McCarthy got it, losing his shot at being speaker.
The subjects the panel initially planned to look into were legitimate, even though there were cascading inquiries.
It remains hard to believe that Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other personnel could have been under attack at different facilities in Benghazi, Libya, over a span of 7 1/2 hours without any nearby military bases ready and able to provide air cover.
As Sen. John McCain once put it on ABC, why didn’t Hillary see the cable that came to her office three weeks before the murderous siege that said the consulate in Benghazi could not withstand a coordinated attack, and where were the Department of Defense assets?
It is still painful to contemplate that the four deaths came after repeated requests from Stevens’ team for many more security agents for the embassy in Tripoli and mission in Benghazi had been unceremoniously rebuffed by the State Department.
CNN’s Jake Tapper recently pressed Clinton about why the State Department rejected those increasingly jittery requests.
“That was left to the security professionals,” she replied, adding that reports had concluded that “the security professionals in the State Department had to look worldwide and had to make some tough decisions.”
She said it wasn’t the job of a secretary of state to “be reaching down” and making those decisions. But, as the main proponent of getting rid of Moammar Gadhafi, which led to Libya deteriorating into violence and chaos, Clinton should have been more vigilant about the safety of the intrepid ambassador whose death, she said, was “a great personal loss.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee was initially set up to investigate issues such as: How did the Defense Department deal with security at U.S. embassies and other overseas facilities? How does the government respond when its employees abroad are in trouble? How much did administration officials, thinking about the president’s looming re-election, try to spin the explanation of the attack on the Benghazi compound?
But as The Times’ Eric Lipton, Noam Scheiber and Michael Schmidt reported in a front-page story, the committee fell into disarray.
Bradley Podliska, an Air Force Reserve officer and Republican staffer fired from the committee, told The Times that things degenerated to the point where members formed a wine club and staffers started a gun club, discussing while in the committee conference room the purchase of monogrammed 9 mm Glock handguns. So at least something was accomplished.
The committee came to life only after it stumbled into the fact that Clinton had used a private email server while secretary of state to keep some of her communications off the books.
Gowdy told Speaker John Boehner that looking into the emails could be a distraction from the Benghazi investigation. But the committee couldn’t resist, becoming more and more obsessed with the scintillating email trail.
Hillary’s decision to circumvent the State Department email system showed bad and paranoid judgment, and left her official emails as secretary vulnerable to hacking. And all her tap dancing that other secretaries did it and that none of the emails were marked classified at the time she sent or received them doesn’t get her off the hook.
As enjoyable as it is seeing Sidney Blumenthal on the hot seat, Gowdy and Co. should have left the email matter to another congressional committee and the Justice Department. They just couldn’t stop themselves, any more than they could stop themselves from cutting Democrats out of witness interviews or from trumpeting that Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin was going to testify Friday.
Clinton told Tapper she didn’t know what to expect from the grilling by her Republican inquisitors. It has been touted as a huge moment that could determine whether she can survive in a campaign already clouded with all the usual Clinton rule-breaking and conflicts of interest. Would she be so wounded that Joe Biden would have to jump in and rescue the party?
Republicans are still savoring the idea of getting Hillary to raise her hand to take the oath.
“They do seem to enjoy coming after me,” Hillary told Tapper with a smile.
But it’s going to be less a showdown than a show trial. The verdict is already in. The Republicans are guilty.
It’s not that Hillary has gotten so much more trustable. It’s just that the Republicans are so much less credible.