This is what karma feels like: How the GOP's Benghazi fraudsters sowed the seeds of their own destruction

The Benghazi committee has always been kabuki theater -- but now the show's up

By Gary Legum

Published October 20, 2015 12:00PM (EDT)

  (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Demis Maryannakis)
(AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Demis Maryannakis)

Poor Trey Gowdy. This weekend the congressman running the House Select Committee investigating the attack on America’s consulate in Benghazi in 2012 gave an interview to Politico that was so self-pitying, I half-wanted to send him a motivational kitten poster. Gowdy complained about the “unfair” criticism raining down on the committee from Democrats and the press, casting himself as a simple country lawyer just trying, in the face of opposition from powerful forces, to bring the truth to light:

But Gowdy says the specifics of his rebuttals don’t matter; he feels he ‘just can’t win.’

‘I think that’s just [the Democrats’] MO: If you can’t attack the facts, you can attack the investigators … just attack, attack, attack and something will take hold,” he said.

It’s hard being a political hatchet man running a partisan investigation that his own party leadership has clumsily implied was designed to hurt the opposition party’s presidential frontrunner. People might accuse you of less-than-pure motivations!

What’s hilarious about this is that Gowdy, in his third term in Congress, has been a partisan hatchet man from the minute he declared his candidacy to replace Rep. Bob Inglis in South Carolina’s 4th District. (Inglis had ticked off the far right in the GOP by, among other things, declaring his belief that man-made climate change is really happening.) In his brief time in the House of Representatives, the former federal prosecutor has gone after a list of the Tea Party’s pet peeves right out of your crazy uncle’s email forwards. He has gone nearly apoplectic while questioning congressional witnesses over the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups and railed against the administration’s Fast and Furious program. He has joined other hard-right Tea Party members in relentlessly attacking the House’s GOP leadership, demanding the passage of every right-wing shibboleth under the sun: gutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, overhauling the tax code.

In 2014 Gowdy co-sponsored the Enforce the Law Act, a piece of right-wing agitprop designed to allow Congress to sue the president in federal court for not enforcing laws. This was a response to what far-right conservatives called President Obama’s “lawlessness” in not enforcing certain federal statutes and what everyone in a rational world recognized as administrative decisions and prosecutorial discretion, which are concepts and practices that presidents – and federal prosecutors, for that matter – have always invoked in deciding how to allocate limited law enforcement resources.

In fact, despite all the fawning profiles of Gowdy as a tough former prosecutor who was handed the chairmanship of the Benghazi select committee because he would stop at nothing to ferret out the administration’s alleged criminal negligence (that seven other Republican-led committee investigations had somehow failed to turn up) in allowing the attacks, his appointment was never about finding the truth. This is because there is no truth about the attacks that would satisfy Gowdy and his ilk, short of President Obama tearfully confessing from the Oval Office to having personally led the Libya militias that attacked the American consulate into battle and then ordering FBI Director James Comey to handcuff him and march him off to ADX Florence on live television.

The entire Benghazi select committee, and the appointment of Trey Gowdy to lead it, was John Boehner’s futile stab at satisfying his right wing. It was intended as a sop, a quelling of the clamorous wingnut voices forever pushing him to find something, anything to get rid of Obama. Which would somehow result in his successor, Joe Biden, and all the Democrats in the Senate turning into milquetoasts who would pass and sign every piece of legislation on the far right’s wish list, I guess?

It was make-work, a way to keep the Tea Party busy and out of Boehner’s hair, and also to preserve his speakership. (How did that work out, anyway?) It was such a blatantly partisan fishing expedition that the Democrats threatened – publicly at least – to not appoint any of their own members to the committee, as required by the House’s rules.

Now after 18 months, just as Hillary Clinton prepares to testify, Gowdy is seeing it fall apart. First there were those comments by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, which were echoed by two other House Republicans. Over the weekend the CIA hung him out to dry on unnecessary redactions of unclassified content in Hillary Clinton’s emails. One of his lieutenants tried to lie so blatantly about Clinton’s emails with her friend Sid Blumenthal that even Andrea Mitchell noticed. On Friday the committee finally got to question Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a woman whom conservatives have accused of being a Muslim Brotherhood fifth columnist who has infiltrated the highest levels of government, and Gowdy couldn’t even bother to show up to the hearing.

That last act really gave the emptiness of the whole exercise away. There are conservatives who invoke the name “Huma Abedin” the way Hogwarts students invoke the name Voldemort, and Gowdy didn’t show up to grill her because he was off at a fundraiser in Utah. Now her boss, the former Secretary of State, will testify in front of this kabuki theater crew on Thursday just after they have handed her enough material to show what a farce the whole idea of investigating Benghazi has been from the beginning. No wonder the conservative from South Carolina seems to be lashing out in a panic.

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