Bye bye, Benghazi, the scandal that never was

     Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

    Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)

    Nothing in politics has been more perversely entertaining than the endless attempts by tinfoil-hatted conservatives to hype Benghazi as an historic scandal. For several years they’ve tried to pump air into that perpetually flat tire – and now it’s flat again.

    Definitively so.

    Remember Benghazi? Ballyhooed by the infauxtainment complex as something bigger than Watergate? The deadly terrorist episode in Libya which the Obama administration supposedly tried to spin as a mere street protest, so that it wouldn’t look soft on terrorism on the eve of Obama’s re-election? The place where four Americans died supposedly because the Obama regime blocked rescue efforts by issuing a stand-down order?

    Most Americans moved on long ago, but the GOP’s investigatory wheels have kept spinning. And late Friday – in a classic news dump, Friday afternoon being the traditional time when the news cycle is slowest – the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee finally released its exhaustive report. After two years of sleuthing, after reading thousands of pages of classified documents and holding nearly 20 hearings, care to guess what the panel found, in terms of Obama administration wrongdoing?

    Zip.

    Bear in mind that the Republicans signed off on these findings: The Obama team didn’t get any advance warning of an organized terrorist attack. During the violence, the Obama team worked as best it could, in real time, with “piecemeal” and “conflicting” intelligence, so naturally some of its earliest public remarks (like national security adviser Susan Rice’s on Sunday TV) were flawed. Yet even when it wasn’t yet clear that terrorists were involved in the attack, President Obama explicitly stated in his Sept. 12 Rose Garden appearance that “terrorism” was a factor (the GOP-led report approvingly points this out). And there was no politicized effort, by the White House or the intelligence community, to cover up terrorist evidence after the incident.

    Oh, and one other thing. A big thing. Benghazi-obsessives and fact-impaired trolls are advised to put their fingers on the following words – I’ll be quoting from the Republican-led report – and proceed verrry slowwwly, so as to ensure maximum cognitive comprehension. To aid that effort, they might want to move their lips as they read:

    “The committee found no evidence that there was either a stand-down order, or a denial of available air support…The CIA received all military support that was available. Neither the CIA nor the DOD (Pentagon) denied requests for air support.”

    OK? Can the conspiracy nuts please trash their tinfoil now? The House committee certainly hopes so: “The report is meant to serve as the definitive House statement…so that the American public can separate actual fact from rumor and supported innuendo.”

    But alas, for those who breathe rumor and innuendo, for those who eschew empirical facts and hew instead to blind belief, there is no such thing as moving on.

    Remember, this report by the Republican-led panel is the sixth probe to clear Obama. We’ve already heard from the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee – and none found evidence of politicized conspiracy or coverup. Nor did the State Department Accountability Review Board. Nor did the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nor did Benghazi investigator Thomas Pickering – a former three-time ambassador under Ronald Reagan – who said that “the notion of a quote ‘coverup’ has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction.”

    And yet, despite that consensus verdict, a verdict now vetted by the House Intelligence Committee, the fever on the right will not abate. Sen. Lindsey Graham was on TV yesterday, denouncing the report authored by his fellow Republicans as “a piece of crap.” Fox News predictably muzzled the key findings (read this propaganda dispatch;  you’d never know that Obama got cleared on the stand-down claim). Plus, we’ll soon have a seventh probe, this time by the “special” committee that House Republicans created earlier this year. Hearings are on the horizon, if only to insinuatingly link the words Benghazi and Hillary.

    But hey, if this latest pursuit doesn’t bear fruit, if Benghazi deflates yet again, there will always be fresh avenues for innuendo. Like, it’s surely just a matter of time before someone on the right rhetorically links Barack Obama and Bill Cosby….Bingo!

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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