The big Benghazi dance

May 22

Nancy Pelosi has now announced the five Democratic members of Congress who will serve on the Republicans’ select committee to investigate Benghazi. They will be outnumbered by the committee’s seven Republicans, but at this point we can safely predict what’s going to happen with this committee.

To quote Macbeth, it will be a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

OK, so maybe the “idiot” part is too harsh — no one thinks that Rep. Trey Gowdy, who will be leading the committee, isn’t a smart guy. But it’s easy to see exactly how the big Benghazi dance will unfold, and how everyone will play their appointed parts.

That’s partly because of the nature of this matter, partly because of everything that has happened up until this point, and partly because of who’ll be on the committee. This description in the New York Times makes the contrast in who got chosen to represent each party:

The Democrats chosen were Mr. [Elijah] Cummings, who clashed repeatedly over Benghazi with the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Representative Darrell Issa of California; Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Adam B. Schiff of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee; Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a decorated and severely wounded combat veteran of the Iraq war; and Linda T. Sánchez of California, the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee.

The Republican members, by contrast, largely lack foreign policy and military credentials, although with Mr. Gowdy and Representative Susan W. Brooks of Indiana, they have prosecutorial experience. They include Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Representative Martha Roby of Alabama and Representative Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia. 

Just by looking at the committee’s membership, you can see what the two parties are trying to achieve. John Boehner picked a combination of prosecutors, intense partisans, and hard-right blowhards, people who are there to pound the table, shake their fists, and raise their voices. Pelosi could have picked similar Democrats (there was a move to get Rep. Alan Grayson on to the committee), but instead she selected a group of serious members who come with some knowledge on the matters to be explored. Despite the fact that Democrats (even those on this committee) think this is all a waste of time, they’re taking a high road approach, hoping that they’ll look reasonable and sober while Republicans look wild-eyed and angry.

So here’s how this is going to go down:

1) The first day of hearings will get blanket coverage in the media. The members will each get a chance to make their opening statements, which will leave the walls of the hearing room quivering under the power of all the thunderous outrage the Republicans can muster.

2) At some point, Hillary Clinton will testify. The media will rub their hands together in anticipation of the confrontation, the smack-down, the Capitol Hill cage match! Republican members will preen for the cameras, and Clinton will, most likely, parry all their assaults. It’ll be good television, but no new information will be revealed.

3) After that, the media will quickly lose interest.

4)Republicans will then complain that the liberal media are covering up the scandal.

All that is predicated on the assumption that the committee is not actually going to discover damning new evidence of Obama administration malfeasance that will lead to resignations, criminal indictments, or even (be still the Republicans’ hearts) impeachment. I feel secure in assuming that, given how much Benghazi has been examined over the last year and a half. Keep in mind that there have already been investigations and hearings on Benghazi not only by Darrell Issa’s oversight committee, but also by House and Senate committees on foreign affairs, intelligence, armed services, and homeland security (not to mention lengthy investigations by the FBI and news organizations). Is it theoretically possible that there is some blockbuster revelation that none of these committees were able to uncover, but the select committee will? Sure. It’s also theoretically possible that there really are space aliens being held at Area 51.

In the end, both Democrats and Republicans are going to get exactly what they want out of this committee. Republicans will be able to show their base that they’re holding Barack Obama’s feet to the fire and giving Hillary Clinton the business. Democrats will be able to show their base that Republicans are crazy. Everybody wins.

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