May 12

This Insider makes a point of looking at things in crass political terms. Through that lens, it is easy to see why the Democrats should appoint members to serve on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Despite noise from Democrats at the outset, it is in their best interest to participate in the Benghazi hearings.  By doing so, they can keep the story alive, generating as much news as possible to distract voters’ attention away from Obamacare and the economy. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and other Democratic leaders have threatened to boycott the Select Committee.  And as the Post’s Jaime Fuller points out, House Intelligence Committee Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Fox News Sunday that he “think[s] it’s a tremendous red herring and a waste of taxpayer resources.”  Perhaps they will have second thoughts.  If I were them, I would put five safe incumbents on the committee and ask them to ponderously slow-walk the process, all the while belittling it as a farce.

There are good reasons why Republicans care about what happened in Benghazi.  And the leaders of the effort to find the truth are both earnest and committed. Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) – the Chair of the Select Committee – is brighter than most, very sure-footed and nobody’s fool, but Gowdy’s talents don’t mean this won’t be a mistake for the GOP.

Undoubtedly, the Select Committee’s investigation and hearings will produce more should-haves and would-haves.  It has already been 20 months since the 2012 attack, so what is the hurry?  Why can’t this wait until after the midterm elections, when there will be a less politically charged atmosphere? Does anybody really think we are driving turnout among marginal suburban voters by flogging Benghazi?  The voters who are motivated by this issue have already made the calculation that someone in this Administration is guilty of wrongdoing.  For the GOP to keep proving it isn’t pointless, but it isn’t urgent.  The GOP gains very little by raising the profile of this issue when we should be talking about Obamacare and the economy.

There is almost no scenario where a Democrat will pay an additional price.  Ambassador Susan Rice is the only political casualty.  She tried too hard to be a political operative, and as a result, it will be very difficult for her to be confirmed by the Senate in the future.  President Obama will greet the hearings and the investigation with a shrug, and if this is the biggest political problem Hillary Clinton has then she’s happy.  In fact, if I were Clinton, I would secretly hope to be called to testify again on Benghazi.  She can show up and act indignant and her enablers in the media will declare a huge victory.  The stories have already been written about how she bested those mean House Republicans and how her appearance at the hearings shows just what an able campaigner and magnificent president she would be.

It is important that there be a truthful, definitive report detailing what happened in Benghazi.  It is a noble cause, and it is true that doing good is its own reward – although that’s mostly true for Heaven, not Washington. This election needs to be about Obamacare and the economy.  Everything else is a distraction.

 

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Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.