Kevin McCarthy Inadvertently Tells The Truth About The House Benghazi Committee
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who will most likely be easily elected to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House, caused a bit of a ruckus today when he seemed to admit that the GOP’s motives in launching yet another committee to investigate the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi was largely a political effort to discredit Hillary Clinton:
Sean Hannity was pushing hard, asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to name some promises his Republicans had actually delivered on. He scoffed when McCarthy said the party would start undoing the Affordable Care Act — “you have the power of the purse!” He talked over McCarthy when the leader and candidate for Speaker of the House suggested that the party did not need to cut funds for President Obama’s “amnesty,” because courts had taken care of it. Only halfway into the interview did McCarthy finally catch a break.
“Everybody though Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy asked. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”
“I give you credit for that,” said Hannity. “I’ll give you credit where credit is due.”
The interview ran late Tuesday night, giving Hillary Clinton’s campaign and allies time to prepare a counterattack. They — and Democrats, generally — had always described the May 2014 creation of the Select Committee on Benghazi as a political fishing expedition. All of a sudden, McCarthy was saying so, just to mollify a partisan conservative TV host. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon quickly argued as much on Twitter.
The political hatchet job at taxpayer expense that is the current Benghazi investigation in the House has been officially exposed by who else – the future Speaker of the House,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of the pro-Clinton rapid response group Correct the Record. “We have been saying for years that Republicans were exploiting the deaths of four Americans for political gain. Kevin McCarthy just admitted it. Disgraceful.”
McCarthy’s answer was indeed at odds with 16 months of Republican talking points on the investigation, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). Whenever he was asked if the committee was political, outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner typically expressed disgust at the mere suggestion. Democrats were talking politics while lifetime prosecutor Trey Gowdy was talking about events that led to the murders of four Americans.
On the right, Gowdy’s committee isn’t even given full credit for the most damaging revelations about Clinton. Judicial Watch, the watchdog group that obtained Benghazi-era emails about White House talking points — Boehner’s stated justification for creating the committee — greeted the speaker’s retirement by saying he’d largely whiffed.
“We’ve heard from many members of the House who are embarrassed that its committees and oversight have become a joke under Speaker Boehner,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton last week. “Judicial Watch has had more success investigating the IRS, Benghazi, and Clinton email scandals than any House committee under Boehner’s direction.”
In a follow-up interview, Fitton told the Washington Post that the Benghazi select committee was about as unproductive as any creation of Boehner could be expected to be. ”Committees are a way for leadership to allow members to leverage their offices to raise money and stay in office,” he said. “Oversight, accountability, fiduciary responsibility to their taxpayers — it’s often secondary.”
McCarthy’s statement is obviously not what Republicans want the public to hear. For three years now, the GOP has been banging the Benghazi drum and insisting that their numerous investigations into the attack and the Administrations response to it were meant to get to the truth about what happened that night. Behind the claims of a quest for truth, though, is a long history of Republican politicians and pundits who have clearly already made up their mind about the matter and concluded that President Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton were either incompetent in their response to the attack or willfully allowed it to happen for reasons that they can never seem to explain. Even in the days after the attack in the midst of the 2012 Presidential Campaign, Mitt Romney’s campaign and its supporters attempted to use the attack, and especially the Administration’s somewhat confused response to its aftermath, to push back against the President. The tactic failed to work, though, and President Obama went on to easily win reelection. That didn’t stop Congressional Republicans, who immediately convened a series of committees to investigate the affair that included Hillary Clinton’s now famous testimony in her waning days in office. Those hearings, of course, led to the now famous confrontation between Clinton and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson and in which Clinton utters the now famous line “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Neither that investigation, nor any of the others, have found any evidence of wrongdoing. Perhaps more importantly, an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee that had access to classified information that other committees didn’t found the same thing and concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Administration, and no evidence of a cover-up as has been alleged by some on the right.
Despite the fact that there clearly doesn’t seem to be any reason for yet another investigation of what happened three years ago in Benghazi, the House went forward with the Select Committee anyway. As I noted at the time the committee was first established in May 2014, it was apparent from the start that the primary purpose of the committee was not to uncover “the truth” about the Benghazi attack but to score political points against Democrats in general and Hillary Clinton in particular. This isn’t to deny that there aren’t legitimate questions arising out of what happened in Benghazi, but those questions are ones that have little to do with the partisan war that Trey Gowdy and his committee are leading, and the answers to those questions would not help the Republicans rile up their base in advance of the Presidential election. The partisan nature of the investigation has become even more apparent as time has gone on. Despite the fact that it has been in operation for more than a year, the committee has held almost no public hearings and announced early this year that a report would not be released until 2016, most likely just in time for the General Election. Now that Hillary Clinton’s scheduled October 22nd testimony before the committee is approaching, and with the committee now seemingly more focused on Clinton’s use of a private email server than the September 11th, 2012 attack in Benghazi the partisan motivations behind the investigation are apparent.
Majority Leader McCarthy committed what political analysts call a “Kinsley Gaffe,” he inadvertently told the truth about something that Republicans would prefer not be publicly acknowledge. For anyone who has been paying attention, though, his admission should not come as a surprise.