That the Benghazi hearings are pure political theater is beyond reasonable doubt at this point, but the show must go on, with Hillary Clinton sitting behind the microphone and Republicans, hilariously, casting themselves in the role of determined truth-seekers, trying to get to the bottom of the supposed mystery that is ¡Bënghazi!
This bit of play-acting is only becoming more ironic by the minute, however, as it increasingly clear, when the costumes come off and the "congressional hearing" stage lights go down, that Republicans very much do not want the facts or the truth to come out about what happened in Benghazi, why these endless hearings are going on, or quite possibly what they ate for breakfast before starting another round of "what lurid conspiracy theories that have already been debunked are we going to spin today?"
Wednesday, The Hill reported on a battle that Democrats and Republicans had over the closed-door testimony offered by Cheryl Mills, a top aide of Clinton's during her time as Secretary of the State. The Republicans did not want the transcripts released to the public, clearly because Mills's testimony exonerates Clinton:
The 307-page transcript from Cheryl Mills’s September testimony contains no evidence that Clinton mishandled the U.S.’s response to the 2012 terror attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, according to Democrats on the select committee investigating the incident.
Instead, Clinton was “very engaged” in responding to the crisis, Mills said, according to the new transcript.
In fact, her decision to go to a “staff-level” meeting about the incident — which would normally be below Clinton’s level as Secretary of State — “took some people aback,” she added.
“What she was communicating the night is, ‘I’m here because I want my team safe. … And whatever we need to do to do that I want to do,’” Mills said.
Trey Gowdy asked his colleagues to "treat the conversation as if it were classified,” but Democrats are accusing Republicans themselves of leaking out-of-context parts of the testimony in order to mislead people about what Mills actually said. So they released the entire transcript.
That Republicans are sleazy enough to do such a thing wouldn't be surprising. We are talking about the same party that's had multiple accusatory hearings about Planned Parenthood based on videos that pull the same trick of manipulating quotes to make people sound like they said things they didn't say.
"When Republicans are mad that transcripts of the hearings they run are being released," Paul Waldman at the Washington Post sarcastically wrote, "you know they’re accomplishing their goals."
This attempt to silence and control the flow of information was in evidence again earlier this week, when Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Benghazi committee, begged his Republican colleagues to learn the virtues of shutting their mouths. "I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends," he said Sunday on "Face the Nation," "shut up talking about things that you don't know anything about. And unless you're on the committee, you have no idea what we've done, why we've done it and what new facts we have found."
This comment is clearly a pointed barb aimed at Rep. Kevin McCarthy who, in his failed campaign to become House Speaker, let it slip that the point of the Benghazi hearings was to hurt Clinton in the polls. Gowdy is trying to salvage this by pretending McCarthy was talking out of his ass.
But here's the thing: McCarthy, while he failed to become Speaker, is still the House Majority Leader. So the story Gowdy's trying to sell you is that the House Majority Leader has no idea what his members are up to and has never sat in on a strategy meeting or had any input in setting the agenda for the House. Cool story, bro.
The Benghazi strategy of using taxpayer-funded congressional hearings to advance right wing conspiracy theories that are better suited to the email forward circuit that to our cable news stations probably sounded good on paper. After all, Republicans know these things are boring and most voters will only have a vague understanding that something happened and that it's bad. But the strategy relied on holding onto that image of Republicans as dogged truth-seekers. Now the image is quickly becoming a more accurate one, of Republicans as liars who fight mightily to keep the actual facts from getting out.