Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Hillary and the GOP's Big Benghazi Mistake

The right wing Republican hearings in the House of Representatives on Benghazi have always been a witch hunt intended to damage Barack Obama and, perhaps more importantly, Hillary Clinton, whom the GOP sees as the most likely opponent of whatever political whore/charlatan the GOP manages to nominate as its standard bearer in 2016.  But even if this has been the reality, it is not good politics to admit it.  Yet that is precisely what would be House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did last week.  Now, both Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are jumping on the admission and are calling out the GOP.  Indeed, in a new ad, Hillary that calls the Benghazi hearings and the e-mail server story line as nothing more than political hatchet jobs aimed at harming her political standing.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this gift from McCarthy to Clinton and Democrats.  Here are excerpts:

When House speaker-in-waiting Kevin McCarthy claimed credit for the decline in Hillary Clinton's poll numbers because House Republicans had formed a congressional committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, I knew it was a bad political mistake. I may have underestimated just how bad.

Consider how Clinton responded to a question about her private e-mail server during a New Hampshire townhall hosted by NBC's "Today" show co-host Savannah Guthrie on Monday:
"This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans," she said. "I would never have done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down."
Throughout the interview, Clinton referenced McCarthy's comments — made during a contentious interview with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity — as a means to do something she's been unable to do ever since the e-mail story broke in March: Play offense.

She's impassioned and right on the edge of anger. Anger is, of course, not always a good thing for politicians.  But in this case, it shows Clinton at her best: Partisan, passionate and convincing.

[W]hile the Benghazi committee was aware that Clinton was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, the GOP leadership had been very careful to frame it as simply a fact-finding effort that happened to include the former secretary of state.

McCarthy, of course, changed all that with his comments to Hannity. What McCarthy said doesn't mean that the who, what, when, where and why of Clinton's exclusive use of a private e-mail server while at the State department isn't still an issue for her. What it does mean though is that she now has a way to change the subject — or at least the terrain on which she is fighting.

That all changed with McCarthy's comments.  Now, Clinton can do exactly what she did in New Hampshire n Monday morning: Quickly acknowledge her error then turn to the "real" issue, which is how Republicans are exploiting the deaths of four Americans for their own political gain. That narrative — coupled with Clinton's passion for it — is a winner, or as close as she can get to it on an issue that has caused tons of problems for her campaign. 

It's possible that this past five days or so is simply a blip in the broader context of the campaign and the Clinton-plays-defense storyline will reassert itself. But, the Clinton team thinks that McCarthy has handed them a massive political gift, and I tend to agree.

Clinton is not the only Democrat jumping on the band wagon that the GOP has foolishly provided.  As MSNBC reports, others are now sounding off.  Here are highlights:

It’s always interesting to see what happens when a charade ends. For quite a while, congressional Republicans tried to keep up appearances, pretending their Benghazi committee was a legitimate, non-partisan search for truth – a claim no one, anywhere, seriously believed – but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) accidental candor last week ripped off the mask.

The Washington Post reported this morning:
Democrats are taking the unprecedented step of releasing excerpts from a closed-session interview the House Benghazi committee conducted last month with Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, accusing the panel’s Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy (S.C.) of selectively leaking information to damage Clinton in the presidential race.
In a letter signed by all five Democratic members of the panel, the lawmakers told Gowdy, “It has become obvious that the only way to adequately correct the public record is to release the complete transcript of the Committee’s interview with Ms. Mills…. [W]e plan to begin the process of correcting the public record by releasing the transcript of Ms. Mills’ interview. Since you have indicated your unwillingness to do this in a bipartisan manner, we plan to do so ourselves.”

They have the transcript – the whole thing, not excerpts edited by Republicans to advance a partisan agenda – and they want the public to have it, too. 

I’m not entirely sure what, if anything, Gowdy can do at this point to (a) keep the truth shielded from public view; and (b) punish the Democrats on his committee for going around him.
But as the masquerade ends and the Benghazi committee is exposed as the partisan exercise it has always been, the politics surrounding the scheme are clearly intensifying.

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