Ordinarily on Capitol Hill, when lawmakers organize a hearing and call a notable witness, the purpose is to advance a specific cause. But if lawmakers haven’t done their homework, this usually straightforward exercise can go quite badly.
A month ago, for example, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee held another Benghazi hearing because they hoped former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell might tell Republicans what they wanted to hear. He didn’t – Morell further debunked every right-wing conspiracy theory to which GOP lawmakers desperately cling.
Yesterday, something similar happened.
The Republican head of the House’s Armed Services Committee issued a statement sharply criticizing the testimony of his own party’s star witness in the latest hearing on Benghazi only minutes after the session concluded, going against his colleagues’ enthusiasm to hear just what the Obama administration did wrong the night of the attack.
It quickly became an example of the right hand not knowing what the further-right hand was doing. Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) House Oversight Committee called retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell to testify on Benghazi, insisting Lovell had key insights into the developments. But the retired general refuted key elements of the GOP line, and soon after, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, insisted Lovell does not have key insights into the developments.
At the same time, the Republican Armed Services Committee chairman directly contradicted claims from the Republican Oversight Committee chairman about accusations related to Hillary Clinton.
When Casey Stengel asked, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” in 1962, he wasn’t talking about Republicans obsessed with a misguided conspiracy theory, but he might as well have been.
Indeed, yesterday was rough for the right, but the GOP’s newly invigorated, completely unhinged interest in Benghazi has had a rough week.
The conservative outrage machine apparently went to 11 this week when Republicans learned that a White House official repeated the CIA’s line on Benghazi soon after the attacks. Why is that scandalous? I haven’t the foggiest idea – the “revelation” simply reinforces what we already knew – but GOP officials and their media allies were certain this is a “smoking gun.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is now once again convinced there was a “cover-up” – he’s used that phrase before, though he’s struggled with its meaning – and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) added that he believes White House officials are “scumbags.”
Remember, according to the Beltway’s conventional wisdom, these are the kind of leading, reasonable Republican lawmakers with whom President Obama is supposed to work and strike deals.
Let me just repeat the point from earlier in the week: it’s clear at this point that no amount of evidence, no number of investigations, no hours of hearings, no volumes of comprehensive reports will ever be enough for those who want the Benghazi conspiracy theories to have merit. It’s no longer about substantiation; it’s more of a feeling. It’s as if Stephen Colbert’ persona were real and a large group of people proudly declared, “It doesn’t matter if the evidence says we’re wrong because our guts say we’re right.”
It’s no way to win an argument, but for Benghazi conspiracy theorists, they’ve already won the argument by convincing themselves that their version of reality is superior to everyone else’s.