The entirety of the House Republican leaders spoke to reporters yesterday morning following a caucus meeting, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrapped up the briefing by throwing a bit of a tantrum.
[H]is voice rising in anger and his face darkening to red, he went through the list of investigations that conservatives have pursued to frustratingly inconclusive ends over the last several years.“When is the administration going to tell the American people the truth? They’ve not told the truth about Benghazi, they’ve not told the truth about the I.R.S., they’ve not told the truth about Fast and Furious.”
Jon Chait joked, “It’s about time America has an omnibus committee on Benghazi, the I.R.S., Fast and Furious, Spreading the Wealth, and water fluoridation. They are definitely going to Get to the Bottom of all the things Obama has been lying to America about.”
Boehner probably got a little carried away – feigning emotional outrage invariably leads to rhetorical clumsiness – but the Speaker’s tirade inadvertently gave away the game:
Republicans are just throwing garbage against the wall – any garbage they can come up with – in the hopes that something, anything, sticks.
Watching this unfold in real time reinforces an unsettling truth: the only legitimate scandal on display on Capitol Hill right now is how Republicans are conducting themselves.
Boehner, with a rising voice and a red face, believes the White House has deceived the public about Benghazi. Does the Speaker have any proof to bolster the condemnation? No, but he has a new committee committed to finding something his party wants to hear.
Boehner believes the White House has deceived the public about the IRS. Does the Speaker have any proof to bolster this? No, but he seems to think repeating bogus arguments makes them true.
But for Boehner to add Fast & Furious to the mix, a controversy that wrapped up in 2011, speaks to a genuine desperation – he doesn’t have any evidence of White House deception, but more importantly, the Speaker doesn’t have any reason to even bring this up other than a desire to pretend something nefarious is going on within the administration.
NBC News’ First Read asked the question of the day: “Why has the political conversation turned back to Benghazi and the IRS?”
That need not be rhetorical. The IRS “scandal” was discredited last year; the Benghazi attacks were nearly two years ago and have already been thoroughly investigated; and Boehner’s new-found interest in Fast & Furious revisits a story that wrapped up three years ago.
There’s no pretense of legitimacy to any of this The Speaker put on a show – “his voice rising in anger and his face darkening to red” – about stories that ran their course quite a while ago. There have been no new revelations that fundamentally change our understanding about any of the allegations or justify Boehner getting hysterical.
So why has the political conversation turned to old, discredited “controversies”? As we talked about on Monday, the combination of great “Obamacare” news, dropping unemployment, and GOP frustration over the lack of legitimate White House scandals have created a toxic cocktail.
But what should arguably matter most to the public is the fact that House Republicans have decided witch hunts and scandal mongering based on nothing is preferable to governing. In Americans’ name and on Americans’ dime, GOP lawmakers have decided they won’t pass immigration reform, won’t come up with a health care plan, won’t consider a credible jobs bill, won’t raise the minimum wage, won’t consider background checks, won’t touch pay equity, won’t vote on ENDA, won’t create infrastructure jobs, and won’t extend unemployment benefits.
They will, however, invest an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources into pursuing “scandals” they know to be imaginary.
We talked the other day about the comparisons to 1998, but at least 16 years ago, there was a Democratic president guilty of something – President Clinton had sexual relations with that woman and he hadn’t told the truth about it. The American mainstream had to decide whether or not to care.
But in 2014, we’re left with little more than a do-nothing Congress wasting its time and ours, chasing a mirage.
Those looking for a political scandal are probably looking at the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue.