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Author: BobR    Date: 05/10/2013 12:33:51

An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views

The term "witch hunt" comes from a sad episode in American history where early settlers in Salem, MA became obsessed with the notion that there were witches among them. They were certain that they were the cause of any calamity that befell them. Surely their new home in the new world was blessed by God and anything that interfered with that must be the work of the devil? And so they held "trials" in which anyone accused of being a witch had to prove that they weren't. The proof generally meant dying.

Throughout our history, this sort of behavior has occurred again and again, with the term "witch hunt" being applied once the reality of the paucity of evidence has become clear. It happened during the McCarthy hearings, it happened during the Clinton "Whitewater" investigation, and it is happening now during the Benghazi "investigation. There isn't any real evidence - it's just people who want something to be wrong digging until they can find something - anything - to hang around the neck of their target. For President Bill Clinton, that became a stained blue dress.

With the Benghazi investigation, the original target was President Obama. While they would still like to find some tiny nugget to tarnish his legacy and prompt talks of impeachment, the immediacy of that lost its luster once he was re-elected. Now they are looking forward to 2016 to pre-emptively target a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy. It seems obvious as the tone of the questions and answers shift from the White House to the former Secretary of State:
Clinton’s name was invoked over and over during the hearing (a blogger for Foreign Policy counted 32 mentions), with the committee airing testimony from department officials that she failed to sign off on efforts to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens and two aides
The totality of the criticism, one longtime Obama aide told POLITICO, was a “clear effort to undermine” her — and to punch through the larger public’s disinterest in another Benghazi deep dive.
“Of course they are targeting Hillary. The idea that Hillary hating ever went away is insane. It was just dormant,” says former Bill Clinton adviser James Carville, echoing the view of other Clinton backers.

House Speaker Boehner is trying to help by demanding that the White House release emails (with sensitive information) regarding the attackers. Based on the description, it doesn't seem like there's anything there that we don't already know. They've been at this for 6 months now, and have nothing. It's all really an excuse to keep digging with the hopes they'll find something - anything - if they overturn enough rocks.

The problem for them is that there just seems to be no "there" there. The biggest criticism seems to be the mixed messaging and changing characterization of who the attackers were and what their motivations were. None of that is germane, of course, but with some smoke and mirrors, the Republicans can trot it out as "obvious evidence of a cover-up".

That just doesn't have enough zing, though, to engage the average voter. Rand Paul is trying to invoke the ghost of Reagan with his peculiar conspiracy theory that this happened because of secret arms trades with Syria:
“I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria.”

The Republican senator said the New York Times had reported that Turkish ships were transporting weapons from Libya to Syria. How falsely claiming the attack on the U.S. consulate occurred during a spontaneous demonstration would help cover-up such a situation was unclear.

“I don’t know,” Paul said. “Were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on at the CIA annex? I’m not sure exactly what was going on, but I think questions ought to be asked and answered...

Of course he does. Because it's well-known that regardless of the answer, a well-crafted question can be accusatory enough to instill doubt and suspicion in the casual observer. It's like the old saw of asking a politician "when did you stop beating your wife?". There is no answer that will undo the damage of the question. Regardless, this is an absurd assertion to make when you admittedly have "no evidence".

There are some real questions that need to be asked though, like: How is this a failure to protect the embassy when Republicans voted to cut funding for embassy security? This isn't just austerity - this is a direct funding cut that directly affected the safety of our diplomats with the expected result. It should be noted the Daryll Issa - the House Rep leading this "investigation" - was one of those who voted to cut the funding. What are the chances this will be brought up in the hearings? Slim and fat.

There is also the question of why this attack has been investigated so vociferously, while 11 embassy attacks that occurred on pResident George W. Bush's watch were not? Part of the reason is that the Democrats were in charge of the House from Jan 2007 on, and they don't do this kind of partisan hackery. However, there were still 5 that occurred when the Republicans were in charge of the House. Why no investigations? Probably because they were busy battling all their own scandals that sent several of their number to jail.

Don't expect the dust to settle anytime soon. It's 3 more years to the beginning of the 2016 campaign season, and the Republicans need to tar Hillary Clinton as much as they can between now and then in case she happens to run. The thing about witch hunts, unfortunately, is that they never end until someone is burning at the stake.

64 comments (Latest Comment: 05/10/2013 23:38:30 by Raine)
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