For 17 months, to the tune of $4.7 million, Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi have been promising the nation that the hounding of Hillary Clinton was something more than a waste of tax money and a partisan fishing expedition. On Thursday, they put her on the stand for their big reveal.
The marathon grilling of the former secretary of state – and current Democratic frontrunner for the White House – yielded nothing that Americans didn’t already know about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Libya that claimed the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues.
That wasn’t surprising: There have already been multiple congressional and other hearings into the tragic incident, with nine published reports and hundreds of pages of findings and recommendations.
Even the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee concluded, after a two-year investigation, that, though security in Benghazi was insufficient, there was no wrongdoing by the Obama administration, and the CIA and military acted properly.
What did raise an eyebrow was how obviously uninterested the Republicans were in learning from Benghazi, in what might be done to make U.S. embassies safer, for instance, or to stop government shutdowns from threatening funding for security.
Though Clinton spoke of them, compellingly, the committee scarcely mentioned those who died besides Stevens – information officer Sean Smith and Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, former U.S. Navy SEALs working as CIA contractors.
Instead, the name Republicans kept raising, weirdly, was that of Sidney Blumenthal, the liberal political operative and Clinton defender. Turns out Blumenthal sent the secretary of state emails sharing tidbits he’d heard about Libya and mean thoughts on conservative leaders. This is like learning that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Vice President Dick Cheney used to go duck hunting together. So what?
Enough is enough. It is clear at this point that, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy blurted to Fox News’ Sean Hannity last month in an unguarded moment, this committee was about making Clinton seem “untrustable” and about driving down her poll numbers. Rep. Trey Gowdy, the committee’s Republican chairman, has had a year and a half to take his shot.
And for all the stacks of emails and audio-visual aids and hours of testimony the committee generated on Thursday, nothing showed Benghazi to be anything but a terrible failure of security and intelligence in the midst of chaos. And nothing showed Clinton to be in any way personally to blame for it.
It’s time to disband this costly farce of a committee. Even as political theater, it hasn’t worked. As with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, another accomplished woman hauled before Congress this season for another show trial, the hectoring of Clinton didn’t raise doubt as much it as raised money – on both sides. Hour by hour, cool response after collected answer, Clinton only seemed more “trustable.”