When expectations are high, the sting of disappointment is more intense – and as we’ve seen in recent years, many Republicans don’t handle disappointment well.
The pattern is hard to miss. In 2012, Republicans could have believed the poll showing President Obama favored to win, but they convinced themselves the polls were “skewed” and were crushed when Mitt Romney lost. GOP observers could have listened to legal experts who said the Affordable Care Act would clear Supreme Court scrutiny, but they convinced themselves that “Obamacare” was unconstitutional and were inconsolable when the rulings were issued.
In the case of Hillary Clinton’s email protocols, it’s the exact same dynamic. Every objective, independent observer tried to explain that there was no realistic chance she’d be indicted, but Republicans, confusing dreams with facts, once again convinced themselves that the Democratic candidate was not only a brazen criminal, but would soon find herself behind bars.
When FBI Director James Comey disappointed them, congressional Republicans quickly threw together a haphazard hearing, which inadvertently had the effect of helping the target of their ire.
Such irrational behavior sometimes feeds on itself, leading to related lapses. As the Washington Post reported, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who’d initially said he’d accept Comey’s findings, now wants the FBI to launch a brand new anti-Clinton investigation.
By the end of the day [Thursday], Chaffetz had indeed asked the FBI to probe Clinton again and find out whether she misled Congress. While the just-concluded FBI investigation was requested by the intelligence community’s inspector general, a new probe of Clinton would be a product of Congress – a distinction that carries obvious partisan implications.That is a risk Republicans are ready to take.
It’s generally not a positive development when members of Congress see the FBI as a political tool to be used against partisan rivals, but just as important in this case is that no one seriously believes a federal anti-Clinton “perjury” probe will result in an indictment.
The New Republic’s Brian Beutler had a great piece the other day explaining that this latest GOP gambit “will likely produce another disappointing finding.”
It will leave the conspiracy-minded GOP base blindsided once again, and give way to some other tangentially related but probably fruitless inquisition. We will be dealing with the fallout of the email investigation well into Clinton’s first term in the White House, unless Democrats reclaim the House and Senate. But now, instead of investigating Clinton for endangering national security or for some other crime related to her public service, it will transform into a shameless witch hunt. The kind of partisan onslaught that only seems to make the Clintons more powerful. And thus the insanity begets itself.
None of this does Republicans any favors. They seem intent on putting themselves in this Groundhog-Day-like loop in which they enthusiastically embrace some imagined “scandal,” tell their base (and the media) to take the matter very seriously, convince themselves that the outcome will magically transform the political landscape, only to have their hearts broken by reality – until some new controversy can be concocted. Rinse and repeat.
GOP insiders have to realize there are better uses for their energies.
Postscript: In case it’s not obvious, Chaffetz and other congressional Republicans want Clinton investigated for perjury, which is incredibly hard to prove, because of email-related testimony she made to the GOP’s Benghazi panel. But to prove perjury, prosecutors would need proof that Clinton deliberately lied under oath – not just made a mistake or forgot some details. That’s not going to happen, but her partisan enemies desperately want to pursue the matter anyway.