THE BIG BENGHAZI FREAKOUT

Dubya had Iraq. Clinton had Monica. Reagan had Iran Contra. Nixon had, well, you know. Call it the six-year itch, that time when the deeds and misdeeds of two-term presidents always seem to finally catch up to them, when they’ve been around long enough to give attack dogs red meat and amass a bountiful surfeit of enemies out for scalps. Congressional hearings, calls for endless investigations, subpoenas galore, the specter of impeachment — all de rigueur.

And so it is unsurprising — after the big nothingburgers of Solyndra, Fast and Furious and the IRS pseudo-scandal — that the cauldron of enmity known as the House Republicans has refocused its outrage-in-search-of-a-cause on the 2012 incident in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. To that end, the House will convene a special select committee to “investigate” the attack on the U.S. consulate, a committee whose real purpose, of course, has nothing to do with actual fact-finding and everything to do with inflaming the money-generating right-wing noise machine, damaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects and, if all goes well, at long last ridding the country of the Commie tyrant Barack Hussein Obama. Benghazi is, we’re told, worse than Watergate — and somehow worse than the putrid cesspool of lies that led to more than 4,000 American deaths in Iraq under the last GOP administration (or even the nearly 270 Americans who perished in terrorist attacks in Libya in 1983 on Saint Ronnie’s watch).

To be sure, Benghazi isn’t a shining moment of American foreign policy. There was an intelligence failure, a lack of clarity, spin from the White House and the president’s re-election campaign. The casus belli of this latest round on indignation is an email, disclosed in response to a FOIA request from Judicial Watch, in which White House advisor Ben Rhodes instructed then-Ambassador to the United Nations (now national security advisor) Susan Rice “to underscore that these protests [in Egypt and later Libya, which gave rise to the attack] are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” on the Sunday talk-show circuit.

That is, in the Republican fever dream, smoking-gun evidence not of spin but of a cover-up, proof that the White House downplayed the attack’s terrorism origins, or maybe its own unwillingness or inability to protect American diplomats, or something. The further in the weeds you go, the less sense the conspiracy makes.

That’s not to say this whole mess hasn’t been a cluster that transparency could have ameliorated. The administration should have released an unredacted version of that email years ago, not now. (Worth noting: What Rice said about that anti-Islam YouTube video, in fact, reflected what the CIA believed at the time; the evidence still suggests the video played a role, and that the Benghazi attacks were opportunistic, rather than planned weeks out.) But the heady jump from “White House talking points” to “impeach!” is not just long and arduous but rancid and offensive, especially from the crew that fell over itself to rally behind Bush’s misbegotten calamities (and brand the rest of us traitors).

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