Happy birthday, Benghazi Select Committee.
Sunday marked the second anniversary of the creation of the House committee and South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy’s reign as its chairman.
After two years and $6.7 million dollars spent by the committee, along with more than $20 million spent by other federal agencies, all Gowdy has to show for his work is a string of embarrassing flubs. Even Donald Trump has referred to the South Carolina Republican as “Benghazi loser Gowdy.”
Yet the very premises behind Trump’s presidential candidacy and the Benghazi Select Committee are the same — tossing red meat to an angry conservative base inflamed by partisan media. In the case of the Benghazi Select Committee, conservatives believed that although there was no evidence to support their claims they would finally find the silver bullet to take down the Obama administration and, more importantly, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The politicization of the attack in Benghazi began while the terrible events of that 2012 evening were still ongoing. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign issued a statement claiming that President Obama “sympathize[d] with those who waged the attacks.” From that moment forward, the conservative media believed the attack on our diplomatic facility and CIA annex was evidence of all the evils of which they had previously accused the president.
The conservative media has invented a series of myths about the Benghazi attack, from the notion that the president and then-Secretary of State Clinton issued a stand-down order demanding the military not respond that night to the offensive belief that the administration intentionally left people to die in Benghazi. None of this was true.
In the spin room following the presidential debate at Hofstra University in 2012, a leading Republican told me he believed the exchange about whether Obama had called the attack terrorism had won them the election.
It did not.
Subsequently, seven congressional investigations conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Armed Services, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence all failed to provide the fodder the far right was looking for.
In order to mollify conservatives, then-House Speaker John Boehner created Gowdy’s select committee. At the time, many congressional Republicans, in particular those who had investigated the attacks, were concerned about the committee’s formation.
“There is deep unease within the Republican leadership that the select committee, which has yet to announce a schedule of hearings, could backfire, and badly,” wrote Eli Lake, then of The Daily Beast, on the reaction of congressional Republicans. “Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives. Investigate and uncover previously-hidden secrets, and it makes all of the other Republican led panels that dug into Benghazi seem like Keystone Kops.”
It is now two years later and the select committee has yet to uncover any new details about the attack in Benghazi. Nor have any of the facts I presented in “The Benghazi Hoax,” published 31 months ago, changed.
Every investigation into Benghazi has found the same thing. While there were a number of failures at every level of government that led to the attack, there was no wrongdoing and no cover-up. Republican chairmen led the majority of these investigations.
Now conservatives, still seeking confirmation of their conspiracy theories, have come full circle. A recent letter from Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger pointed to a request from Gowdy demanding the Pentagon track down a caller to Sean Hannity’s radio show so he could testify before the committee.
As ranking member of the Benghazi Select Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., noted on the anniversary of its creation, “Republicans have now spent more than two years and nearly $7 million of taxpayer funds for the illegitimate purpose of bringing down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, as Kevin McCarthy admitted.” He concluded, “The Select Committee has discovered no new evidence that contradicts the core findings of the previous bipartisan and independent investigations.”
The fact that no new evidence contradicting previous investigations has been unearthed will not hinder the effort in the least as mollifying the right has been Gowdy’s ultimate goal all along.
It was House Majority Lead Kevin McCarthy who plainly explained the aim of the committee in the fall. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” he said. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”
Gowdy’s own investigator accused him of waging “a partisan investigation” with a “hyper focus on Hillary Clinton.”
In the coming months, with the general election in full swing, the Benghazi Select Committee will finally issue a partisan report.
Cummings issued a warning about Gowdy’s plans: “Republicans are desperate to hide the truth, so they are selectively leaking misleading information to fit a partisan political narrative, withholding interview transcripts from Democrats to prevent us from publicly releasing the facts to the American people, and completely cutting out Democrats from drafting the Select Committee’s final report,” he stated.
A partisan effort like this will do nothing but feed the right-wing media and prove Gowdy’s most fervent critics right about his motives. For an investigation that was born out of the swamp of right-wing media, it is wholly appropriate that it will end there as well.