Benghazi! Preview

Scandal?!You can’t have missed all the news about the upcoming House Select committee on Benghazi—or as it is more property referred to, Benghazi! As it is, the hearing is a political stunt. There have already been four committees that have looked into it and they have found nothing. But why not another committee? After all, it isn’t like the Republicans are going to do any actual work. And it isn’t like they are even trying to make this look like anything but a show trial.

Pelosi asked that Boehner make the committee half and half in terms of Democrats and Republicans. After all, that’s pretty close to the make up of the House: 53.8% Republican. But Boehner wouldn’t hear of it. So he made the committee have 7 Republicans and 5 Democrats. Given that the Republican head of the committee is the only one with real power in terms of subpoenaing people, why not let it go at 6-6. As it is, the 7-5 make up of the committee makes it 58.3% Republican. But by adding just one more Democrat and making it 7-6, the percentage would be exactly what the House is: 53.8%. Whatever.

The Benghazi HoaxIn the lead up to this hearing, something interesting happened. Normally, I avoid signing petitions. For one thing, it is usually just an excuse to get my email address to send me spam. But recently, I actually signed a petition. It was to make Alan Grayson at least part of if not the entire Democratic Party contingent on the upcoming committee. So I was very disappointed when the list of Democrats on the committee came out and it did not include Grayson.

Look, the people on the committee are fine. Elijah Cummings (MD) is very good on policy and a great fighter. Adam Smith (WA) is good on policy, but I’ve never seen him in action. Adam Schiff (CA) is very good on policy, but again I don’t know how he’s going to be against the Republican pit bulls. Linda Sanchez (CA) is fairly good on policy, and represents her district’s interests quite capably, but not really the kind of person I want representing the truth in this political cause. And then there’s Tammy Duckworth, whose policies are good but who is very new. Still, I think we all know why she was put on the committee: she’s charismatic and she’s an Iraq War veteran. In fact, she is the only person on the whole committee to have actual war experience. Only one other member, Republican Mike Pompeo was in the military. He had a comfy five years in Germany at the end of the Cold War.

It’s a fine group, but I would really have liked to have seen Grayson on the committee. For one thing, he would have added a little style. It might have been worth watching. But according to John Amato at Crooks & Liars, “Steny Hoyer was afraid that Grayson would be too rambunctious for his taste.” Personally, if anyone as boring as Hoyer thought that Grayson was too rambunctious, that should have sealed the deal in Grayson’s favor. So we got Schiff instead, who didn’t think the Democrats should send anyone to the committee. Is this really all about individual Democrats fighting and making the Democratic cause weaker? Maybe.

It doesn’t really matter, though. This morning at The Plum Line, Paul Waldman explained how it is going to go, The Big Benghazi Dance. He even quotes Macbeth:

He wrote:

OK, so maybe the “idiot” part is too harsh—no one thinks that Rep Trey Gowdy, who will be leading the committee, isn’t a smart guy. But it’s easy to see exactly how the big Benghazi dance will unfold, and how everyone will play their appointed parts.

That’s partly because of the nature of this matter, partly because of everything that has happened up until this point, and partly because of who’ll be on the committee…

Just by looking at the committee’s membership, you can see what the two parties are trying to achieve. John Boehner picked a combination of prosecutors, intense partisans, and hard-right blowhards, people who are there to pound the table, shake their fists, and raise their voices. Pelosi could have picked similar Democrats (there was a move to get Rep Alan Grayson on to the committee), but instead she selected a group of serious members who come with some knowledge on the matters to be explored. Despite the fact that Democrats (even those on this committee) think this is all a waste of time, they’re taking a high road approach, hoping that they’ll look reasonable and sober while Republicans look wild-eyed and angry.

I think that’s a total mischaracterization of Grayson, who while pointed, fiery, and quotable, is also professional and known for being good at working with Republican idiots. But doubtless, Waldman is right about what Pelosi is trying to do. And he’s right about how the circus is going to go. On the first day, the Republicans will get a lot of coverage with their outrage and fist pounding. Then there won’t be much coverage until Hillary Clinton testifies and counters the Republicans as well as she has in the past, which you may remember is really well:

And then the media will lose interest and the Republicans, led by Fox News will start screaming about a liberal media cover-up.

But what if this committee, unlike all the other committees and the FBI and the press turn up something?! Frankly, I don’t know what they would turn up. I’ve been confused the whole time. I get the IRS scandal: the Democratic president going after his conservative enemies. It wasn’t true, but I see that if someone proved that happened, that would be terrible for the president—he would rightly be impeached and thrown out of office. But in the Benghazi case, I still don’t get it. The administration said that one thing caused the attack when it was another thing? Neither would have made the administration look any better or worse. In the video above, Ron Johnson seems to think that the scandal is that the American people were misled out of incompetence for a couple of days. That’s the scandal? Really?!

Benghazi! is the worst example of a scandal I have ever seen. I really think that the House should hold a hearing on the death of Vince Foster. At least he died and it is technically possible that Hillary Clinton killed him. But this Benghazi! scandal is madness! And that’s especially true when you consider that the scandal could be that four Americans died as a result of poor embassy security. But apparently, that scandal won’t work because the Republicans pushed to reduce funding for embassy security. If the Democrats are really smart, they might be able to make this show trial about that. And maybe the whole 2014 election!

But Waldman sums it up well:

Republicans will be able to show their base that they’re holding Barack Obama’s feet to the fire and giving Hillary Clinton the business. Democrats will be able to show their base that Republicans are crazy. Everybody wins.

I just hope that this backfires on the Republicans. This isn’t even about the election. I just want politics to get back to the old days when it was terrible but not useless.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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