The grand, sprawling, all-consuming Benghazi conspiracy continues to expand and metastasize, swallowing up more and more people and agencies as it makes steady, inexorable progress toward its ultimate goal: repurposing the entire U.S. government so that its primary function becomes the suppression of the TRUTH about Benghazi.
As you may have heard, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its long-awaited report on the Benghazi attacks on Friday evening. The report’s findings had been telegraphed by Democrats on the committee months ago: Errors were made by the intelligence community in assessing the attack after the fact, but no evidence of an administration coverup. The committee’s findings posed an immediate P.R. problem for the die-hard believers in the Benghazi coverup, given that the HPSCI is controlled by the GOP. And so rather than make any allowance for the possibility that they’ve spent two years chasing a phantom conspiracy, they’re indulging in various flavors of denial.
Lindsey Graham came charging hard out of the gates over the weekend, saying the HPSCI report is “full of crap.” Graham has more invested in Benghazi scandal-mongering than any other senator – he took up the cause as part of a successful effort to fend off Tea Party challengers to his 2014 reelection. He’s gone so far as to link Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine to Benghazi. So when the HPSCI found that the Obama administration hadn’t actually covered anything up, he had little choice but to call it “a complete bunch of garbage.”
Fox News, which has been the clearinghouse for all manner of Benghazi-related bullshit, opted for a different approach: sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “LALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALA.” Ed Henry, one of Fox’s “respectable” journalists, gave all of 30 seconds to the HPSCI report on the Friday evening edition of “Special Report,” and he twisted its findings to make it seem like they confirmed everything Fox has said to date about Benghazi.
But overall the big takeaway from conservatives and Republicans was that we just can’t trust the HPSCI report, or the committee, when it comes to Benghazi. The Weekly Standard’s Stephen F. Hayes urged caution and warned that the HPSCI report is “deeply flawed.” (You might remember Hayes from his previous “bombshell” reporting on the Benghazi talking points that completely fell apart because it was based on incomplete information leaked by partisan sources.) The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway put together an extended screed against the HPSCI report, and chastised the media for ignoring “the well-known problems with Congressional oversight.”
The relationship between intelligence agencies and the members of Congress who are supposed to oversee them could not be more damaged. I’m not even talking about stuff like how the CIA admitted to spying on members of the Senate committee that is supposed to oversee the agency.
It’s actually the good relationships that are even worse. (And I’m not even talking about how sometimes members are married to people who work in the private sector on related topics.) One of the most common criticisms levied against the intelligence oversight committees is that they’re far too approving and accepting of what the intelligence community wants.
I’m certainly sympathetic to complaints that the intelligence community and the bodies that are responsible for its oversight are far too simpatico with each other. But even if one were to accept that these conclusions are nothing more than one committee’s attempt to help the intelligence community save face, it’s not like this report exists in isolation. The HPSCI report is just the most recent of the many, many investigations into Benghazi (and not the first to come from a GOP-controlled committee), all of which have failed to turn up evidence of the White House coverup that conservatives insist happened. It seems pretty clear that the only report conservatives will accept on Benghazi is one that affirms everything they’ve already convinced themselves is true.
As for the Benghazi “scandal” itself, it’s not even clear what we’re supposed to be outraged about at this point. Initially, the conservative complaint was that the administration deliberately withheld resources from the besieged Americans in Libya because the White House didn’t want the attack to become a major story. Since the White House’s alleged crimes have been steadily downgraded in terms of perfidiousness to today’s standard complaint that the administration created a misleading set of talking points to obscure who was responsible for the attack. And, again, despite all the media- and government-led investigations into these allegations, no one has turned up any proof that the White House deliberately deceived anyone.
Standing next to that is the long-standing and well-documented campaign by Republicans and conservatives to manipulate, lie and twist facts surrounding Benghazi to keep the “scandal” alive. There have been countless Benghazi “smoking guns” and “bombshells” from the conservative media that, upon brief examination, turned out to be nothing. The head of the House Oversight Committee just makes stuff up about Benghazi to justify his years-long (and fruitless) obsession with the matter. All the while, they’re dismissing the official investigations as meaningless and refusing to allow the issue to rest by pretending that “we still don’t know what happened.” Behavior like that is genuinely scandalous.