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    Hillary and Benghazi: What doesn’t kill her makes her stronger

     Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    We take you now to the hapless proceedings of the Special Committee to Boost Hillary’s Poll Numbers.

    Somewhere in the ninth or 10th hour of this Benghazi freak show, Congressman Mike Pompeo, one of the flailing Republican saboteurs of sane governance, confronted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with what he apparently believed to be a fruitful line of questioning. He wanted to know whether she had been nice to Ambassador Chris Stevens before he was slain.

    “Did he have your personal email?” No, she replied. “Did he have your cell phone number?” No, he had the 24-hour number at the State Department. “Did he have your fax number?” No. “Did he have your home address?” No. “Did he ever stop by your house?” No.

    It was at this point, while Pompeo was unearthing the revelation that Hillary had not personally hosted Stevens in her home (um, because Stevens served overseas?), that conservative commentator John Podhoretz — a Hillary foe and veteran denizen of the Republican right — decided that he had heard enough. He tweeted:

    Why doesn't Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now–if he goes on like this he'll practically get her elected

    — John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 22, 2015

    True that. Because some day, when the history of Hillary’s ’16 candidacy is written, it may well be said that the GOP’s laughable Keystone Cops awarded her presidential gravitas.

    The Republican goal, metaphorically speaking, was to lock a 67-year-old grandmother in an interrogation room for 11 hours, and work her over with truncheons in the expectation that she would break — or, at minimum, that she’d give the inquisitors a fresh sound bite that Republicans could parse for their fund-raising letters. Something, anything, that their digital teams could take viral.

    But alas, it was not to be. As the hours wore on, Gulliver got bigger and the Lilliputians got smaller.

    How great it was that this extended scene played out in public, because for once we could see, in real time, how House Republicans behave inside their conservative cocoon. Having somehow convinced themselves that Hillary was criminally negligent (or something) in the Benghazi tragedy — despite seven previous House probes, a Senate probe, and an independent probe led by a former Reagan ambassador, all of which found no such evidence — they put their cocoonthink on full display. With each failed fishing expedition, with each deep dive into irrelevant minutiae, they played themselves for fools and raised Hillary’s stature.

    It was such a rout that Fox News bailed on its live coverage hours before chairman Trey Gowdy finally gaveled his embarrassment to an end. And since Hillary stoically refused to provide the Republicans with a viral moment, the conservative infauxtainment complex had to content itself with the coughing fit that she suffered at the tail end of the marathon. (Headline this morning on the sludge-driven Drudge Report: “Hillary Health Warning”.)

    I won’t waste time detailing the inquisitors’ ineptitude; I have a life, as do you. Heck, most people knew this hearing was a farce before it even began; according to a CNN/ORC poll released yesterday morning, 72 percent of Americans — including 75 percent of independents, and even 49 percent of rank and file Republicans — recognized that the “Special” Benghazi panel’s prime aim was to score political points at Hillary’s expense.

    And, oh, how Trey Gowdy and his fellow sleuths tried and tried. I felt I was watching the Cubs again.

    They spent hours trying to ferret out the details of Hillary’s email correspondence with friend and occasional adviser Sid Blumenthal. (The average American, tuning in, was surely wondering, “Who the hell is Sid Blumenthal?” Answer: Blumenthal is someone the Republicans have hated ever since they subpoenaed him to testify in 1998 during the Lewinsky probe.) At another point, Freedom Caucus star Jim Jordan waded into the emails and demanded that Hillary provide “the data parameters of the search terms used” for something or other. At another point, in the ninth hour, Martha Roby insinuated that Hillary didn’t care about the Benghazi victims because late on the night of the attack, she left her office and she went home — alone! (Hillary laughed at that one. Roby’s response: “The reason I say it’s not funny is because it was well into the night when our folks on the ground were still in danger. So I don’t think it’s funny to ask you if you were alone the whole night.”) And so on.

    And by the time the show lurched to a close, Hillary looked far less exhausted than Gowdy. If there’s ever a movie (please, no), he’ll be played by Matthew McConaughey, although the actor will need to be sprayed with moisture to approximate Gowdy’s flop sweat. He got nothing yesterday. His big achievement, thus far, is spending $5 million of taxpayer money for a Hillary takedown mission that has backfired. It would’ve been better to have taken that same money and spent it on enhanced protection for Americans serving in global hot spots. Thus redeeming the House GOP for its repeated efforts to cut funding for embassy security.

    In terms of calendar months, this “Special” committee has spent more time on Benghazi — correction, it has spent more time targeting Hillary — than Congress spent investigating Pearl Harbor. (Are the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi more important than the deaths of 2,400 Americans in Hawaii?) It’s more time than Congress spent investigating Iran-Contra. It’s more time than Congress spent investigating the WMD disgrace in Iraq. It’s more time than Congress spent investigating the events that culminated in 9/11. (Are the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi more important than the deaths of 3,000 civilians here at home?)

    And it’s more time than Congress spent investigating the ’83 Beirut terrorist bombing that killed nearly 260 American military personnel. That was a bipartisan probe, led by a Democratic Congress that refused to use it as a partisan issue when Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in ’84. Indeed, Hillary cited that probe, as evidence that Americans are fully capable of examining its tragedies with “statesmanship,” not “partisanship.” Again and again, during those 11 hours, she trekked the rhetorical high road at the stumbling sleuths’ expense.

    Enough already. If House Republicans have any sense of perspective, if they have any interest in minimizing the political damage they’re inflicting on their party, they’ll knock it off. If they deign to breathe the air outside their bubble, they’d surely conclude that it’s time to fold their circus tents – lest they drive Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers any higher.

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

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