The last five years have been something to behold. After the financial collapse, the conservative movement convinced itself that the reason things went so wrong was that the Republican Party had not been pure enough. According to this view, it only pretended to be conservative, but it really wasn’t. As a result, the new conservative movement repudiated all of what conservatives have done the past four decades.
In terms of domestic policy, the Republicans have long been for big spending projects that were not paid for. So when Democrats took control of the government, there really wasn’t any policy that they wanted. They just wanted power back. And they decided that the best way to get it back was just to scream about how terrible the Democrats were, regardless of what they did.
This led us to years during which the Republicans attacked Obamacare—the healthcare reform law that Republicans had been pushing for two decades before. It wasn’t that they actually had anything substantial against the new law (other than that it raised taxes on the rich). It was mostly that it was a Democratic law and the one thing they know that they agree with is that Republicans should be in power and so the Democrats can’t be allowed to accomplish anything.
Now that Obamacare is turning out to be a success and at most a year away from being actually popular, the Republicans have a problem. If “Obamacare” itself isn’t enough to terrify the electorate, they had to find something else. And what could that be? Luckily for them, the right wing echo chamber has kept alive a number of non-scandals for them to use. The best, of course, is Benghazi, because four people died at Benghazi (No one died in Watergate!) even though the supposed scandal has nothing to do with the events that led up to the attack.
As Scandals go, Benghazi is a remarkable choice. It would be one thing if the argument was that the administration did too little to protect our embassies. But they can’t make that argument, because they were responsible for cutting funding. So instead, it is all about what the White House said after the fact. That’s what led to the amazing moment in the second presidential debate where Romney embarrassed himself by claiming that Obama didn’t call the Benghazi an act of terror. He was wrong, but even if he hadn’t been: really?! That’s the scandal? That the administration didn’t talk about a tragedy in the right way?
It is almost two years later and this is still all the Republicans have. If the worst of what the Republicans claim is true, it means that the administration tried to put the best spin on the attack as possible. How this distinguishes it from every other administration ever, I do not know. But of course, it is clear that the worst of what the Republicans claim is not true. As is usual in these cases, after the Benghazi attack there was a lot of conflicting information and the administration didn’t get the story exactly right. If the White House had six months to get their story right (as the Bush administration did before the Iraq War), we might find their error less understandable. But they had four days.
So 2014 is going to be the Benghazi! campaign for the Republicans. We may even see an impeachment attempt. But at this point, what else do they have? Over the past two decades, the Democrats have been eager to embrace any but the most loony Republican ideas. And that includes a lot of really conservative and bad ideas like chained-CPI. So the Republicans really have nothing else to campaign on. If it isn’t Benghazi! then it will be something else crazy, designed to appeal to their crazy base: IRS targeting of conservative groups or ATF coming after your guns or Obama coming after Christian religious rights. These are all untrue, but it hardly matters. The Republicans currently have no actual policies to push.
So Benghazi! it is.