New York Times
Center Ring at the Republican Circus
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD MAY 8, 2014
Posted by: Louis Sheehan
The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.
They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend “such sums as may be necessary” to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The day before, they voted to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whom they would love to blame for the administration’s crackdown on conservative groups, if only they could prove there was a crackdown, which they can’t, because there wasn’t.
Both actions stem from the same impulse: a need to rouse the most fervent anti-Obama wing of the party and keep it angry enough to deliver its donations and votes to Republicans in the November elections. For a while it seemed as if the Affordable Care Act would perform that role, but Republicans ran into a problem when the country began to realize that it was not destroying American civilization but in fact helping millions of people.
Party leaders needed something more reliable, so they went back and revived two dormant scandals from last year, the embers of which were faithfully tended by Republican adjuncts on Fox News and talk radio. Their hope is to show that the administration is corrupt and untrustworthy, and if Hillary Rodham Clinton also gets roughed up in the process, so much the better.
Four Americans, including the United States ambassador, died in Benghazi, and their deaths have been crassly used by Republicans as a political cudgel, wildly swung in the dark. They have failed to provide proof for any number of conspiracy theories about the administration’s failures, including the particularly ludicrous charge from Representative Darrell Issa that Mrs. Clinton, then the secretary of state, told the Pentagon to “stand down” and not help defend the American compound.
In fact, investigations by two congressional committees (including one run by Republicans) found that there was never any kind of “stand-down order” or request. But Mr. Issa and others keep repeating it because, for their purposes, the facts don’t matter.
Now Republicans are frothing about a newly released email message showing that the White House wanted Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations at the time, to go on television in 2012 and make the case that the attack was not a failure of administration policy. The message should have been turned over earlier because all it shows is a routine attempt to spin the news in the most favorable way to the White House. Though it is not the slightest evidence of a cover-up, it has become the foundation for the committee’s existence. Demonstrating the panel’s true purpose, Republican political operatives are already raising money by stoking donor anger on Benghazi.
Democrats who are now debating whether to participate in the committee shouldn’t hesitate to skip it. Their presence would only lend legitimacy to a farce.
Similarly, the Justice Department should not press Ms. Lerner’s contempt citation before a grand jury. She invoked her Fifth Amendment rights at a hearing last year and refused to testify, but Republicans claim, without foundation, that she waived those rights by first proclaiming her innocence. Her refusal, they said, was contemptuous of Congress. Little nuisances like constitutional rights or basic facts can’t be allowed to stand in the way when House Republicans need to whip up their party’s fury.
Posted by: Louis Sheehan