It was tempting to think the Republican obsession with the politics of last fall’s Benghazi attack had run its course this week. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had lined up one last spectacle, suggesting it would be the hearing to end all hearings, and it was a dud. After multiple reports and hearings, the story had run its course.
Except, it hasn’t.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is asking the White House and State Department to hand over emails related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, which House committees were able to see, but not keep or share, during their investigation into the response to the attack. […]
Boehner is asking for two sets of emails, both of which are related to whether the White House tried to change the initial characterization of the attack…. The emails, according to Boehner, show a senior State Department official telling her superiors that the Libyan ambassador said the attack “was conducted by Islamic terrorists.”
But we know what the email says, and we know it’s different from Boehner’s claim – it said “extremists,” not “terrorists.” As the New York Times reported, “The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.”
So why is Boehner pursuing this at all? Perhaps because he’s dealing with pressure from his own members to create another special committee to investigate the attack, on top of the other congressional committees that have already investigated the attack, which complemented an independent panel that also already investigated the attack.
Meanwhile, it’s also becoming increasingly obvious that the GOP’s preoccupation with Hillary Clinton is once again reaching unhealthy levels.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News yesterday to argue the former Secretary of State needs to testify to answer congressional questions on Benghazi, and she “should be subpoenaed if necessary.” This is of interest because Clinton has already testified – was Cheney not paying attention? – and because when Cheney was vice president, he believed congressional requests for testimony should be ignored.
Of course, that didn’t stop Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) from quickly endorsing Cheney’s line.
As Jonathan Bernstein explained yesterday, this isn’t what congressional oversight is supposed to look like.
With Obama, there’s no need for these scandals to make sense; the conservative press will run with them either way. And there might even be an advantage to incoherence. After all, if the accusations are gibberish, the neutral reporters will tend to ignore them – and then conservatives can go on conservative talk radio and Fox News and charge the rest of the press of ignoring these extremely important charges.
All of which means that Republican politicians have little incentive, and perhaps even some real disincentives, for doing the hard work of government oversight – or even the hard work of first-rate scandal-mongering. No wonder they get lazy!
Unfortunately, that leaves us with hyped-up accusations, but no real government oversight – no one really probing for real mistakes, or even real malfeasance, from the Obama Administration. There’s just no reason to bother. And that leaves everyone worse off – except perhaps those reaping profits in the conservative marketplace.