Goodbye, Benghazi sleuths. Take your tinfoil hats.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy

    Rep. Trey Gowdy

    To quote poet T. S. Eliot, the House Select Committee on Benghazi finally folded its tent yesterday – “not with a bang, but a whimper.”

    Most of us — with the exception of paranoid conspiracy theorists and fact-impaired trolls — have long assumed that this partisan Republican concoction would fail to nail Hillary Clinton for the deaths of those four Americans at the Libyan outpost in 2012. We have not been disappointed.

    At yesterday’s press conference, the panel’s Inspector Clouseau, chairman Trey Gowdy, was asked to critique the bumper stickers and T-shirts currently being circulated in right-wing circles. Their slogan reads, “Clinton lied, people died.” Gowdy replied, “You don’t see that T-shirt on me, and you’ve never seen that bumper sticker on any of my vehicles.”

    No surprise there. After all, none of the previous investigations unearthed any evidence that Clinton, in her role as secretary of state, had done anything perfidious or criminal. The Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, in its 2014 report, had found no such evidence. The Senate Intelligence Committee found no such evidence. The Senate Armed Services Committee found no such evidence. The House Foreign Affairs Committee found no such evidence. The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee found no such evidence. The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee found no such evidence.

    Nor did the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nor did Benghazi investigator Thomas Pickering, a three-time ambassador who served Ronald Reagan, who concluded way back in 2013 that nobody in the Obama administration — Clinton or anyone else — had tried to conceal anything for political purposes. In Pickering’s words at the time: “The notion of a, quote, ‘coverup’ has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction.”

    At a cost to the taxpayer of $7 million — money that would’ve been better spent shoring up the U.S. embassy security that Republicans profess to care so much about — Gowdy’s panel basically told us what we’ve long known already. I’m frankly too bored with this topic to detail the redundant findings, but suffice it to say that

    diplomatic security at the outpost could’ve been stronger, in hindsight,
    there was no politically motivated attempt to play down the terrorism angle, just confusion among American officials who were trying to figure things out on the fly, and
    there’s no evidence that Clinton or anyone else had slow-walked a U.S. military response that might’ve saved the lives of those four Americans.

    In fact, Gowdy was asked yesterday about No. 3: Is there any evidence that the military could’ve saved those lives?

    His reply: “I don’t know.”

    Yup, that T.S. Eliot poem captures the essence of those Republican sleuths: 

    We are the hollow menWe are the stuffed menLeaning togetherHeadpiece filled with straw

    And thus ends the probe that took longer than Congress’ investigation of the Pearl Harbor disaster that killed 2,400 Americans, longer than Congress’ investigation of the ’83 Beirut terrorist bombing that killed nearly 260 Americans, longer than its probe of Iran-Contra, longer than its probe of George W. Bush’s WMD con job in Iraq, and longer than its probe of the events that culiminated in 9/11.

    Why in the world was this latest Benghazi panel created in the first place? Kevin McCarthy, a House Republican leader, gave the game away last October when he accidentally committed candor: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”

    Three weeks later, the committee grilled Clinton on live TV for 11 hours and never laid a glove on her. All they got, as a video moment, was the coughing fit she suffered near the end, which prompted this headline on the right-wing Drudge Report: “Hillary Health Warning.” And last I checked, her “numbers” have been climbing anyway — at least when matched against Donald Trump, who is viewed by a landslide majority of Americans as unfit for high office.

    Nevertheless, as we well know, Gowdy’s nothingburger won’t sate appetites on the Republican right. The haters will believe what they want to believe, abetted by two Gowdy panelists — right-wingers Mike Pompeo and Jim Jordan — who separately concluded (without empirical evidence, natch) that Clinton “put political expediency and politics ahead of the men and women on the ground.” Whatever. As the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote more than a half-century ago, there is “a paranoid style in American politics,” characterized by “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.”

    Which probably means we’ll get a new Benghazi committee to investigate the unfinished work of this Benghazi committee. Perhaps there are ways to link Benghazi to the death of Vince Foster. Someone oughta look into that.

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

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