Lanny Davis' adorable, misguided "Benghazi Truth Squad" plan

Lanny Davis wants to set up shop outside the Benghazi hearings? He'd be better off staying away

By Jim Newell

Published May 15, 2014 3:01PM (EDT)

Lanny Davis          (Simon & Schuster)
Lanny Davis (Simon & Schuster)

In a McCarthyite world of politically driven witch hunts into the events surrounding the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, one man stands between peace and chaos, between justice and an impeachment of the president of the United States, between Hillary Clinton and her chances for the Oval Office. That man ... is ... Lanny Davis? According to Lanny Davis, the Washington lawyer/lobbyist/media personality/fixer guy, it is up to Lanny Davis. And how will this brave watchman be armed against the enemy hordes? With a stack of papers.

BuzzFeed reports on Davis' savvy, pre-Y2K crusade for Truth:

The longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton said he will set up shop outside the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He first announced his plans for the project, which he calls the Truth Squad, Tuesday night on Fox News, where he works as a paid contributor. Davis told anchor Megyn Kelly that he would be “relying on” another organization called Correct the Record, but he clarified in a phone interview on Wednesday that the groups will remain unaffiliated....

Davis will take his Truth Squad operation offline, setting up a table outside committee hearings, where volunteers will give reporters and lawmakers fact sheets, or booklets of facts — depending on what he decides to have printed.

As Jonathan Chait notes, there's a noticeably high level of not-getting-the-Internet going on here -- he will be having an assistant print out talking points from Correct the Record for him, which he will then pass out to reporters from a table stationed outside the committee hearings. Maybe this was a bit more practical when he used the same tactic during a congressional investigation of President Clinton in 1997. Not really, though -- even in those prehistoric days of 1997, it was probably easier just to email talking points to reporters. What this tactic indicates, then, is that Davis may be trying to drum up some publicity for himself.

Davis insists that his Benghazi Truth Squad mission is of his own creation, and he is acting on his own behalf. "This is what is wonderful about my situation. I don’t ask permission,” he tells BuzzFeed. “I’m a longtime friend of Hillary. Her name was Rodham when I first met her. I do what I think I should do, and I don’t affiliate with any campaign or any organization.” (See, Martin O'Malley? You don't need Hillary Clinton's permission for everything.)

But in addition to Davis' almost charming devotion to dead-tree talking point distribution, there's a more serious aspect to his not-getting-the-Internet-ism in this: a lack of awareness that the Internet, especially in the six years since the last Clinton campaign, has turned Davis' name to mud.

There have been so many articles about Lanny Davis' list of unsavory clients written in the past six years -- dictators, strongmen, the Washington Redskins -- so we'll provide a sampling here and you can Google "lanny davis sleaze" to find the rest. Most of them include versions of the descriptor "perfect symbol for all that is wrong with Washington." Maybe in 2008, when he was running all over cable news as a surrogate for the Clinton campaign, his presence didn't in and of itself totally discredit whatever help he was trying to offer his dear friends the Clintons. But now, because of an icky lobbying operation that has amply compensated him, it does.

Davis likely believes that the press has treated him unfairly. Well, not really. But either way, if he wants to be of use to the Clintons going forward, it's probably best for him to keep a low profile. This means not personally distributing pamphlets outside the Benghazi hearings, Lanny! C'mon! Just email them! Or don't do anything.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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Benghazi Benghazi Truth Squad Editor's Picks Hillary Clinton Lanny Davis Lobbyists The Internet