“But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”
File under, “We already knew, but thanks for telling us”.
Steve Benen explains the obvious:
Michael Kinsley once said a political gaffe occurs when a politician accidentally tells the truth. By this measure, the man who’s likely to become Speaker of the House next month made an important mistake last night.
Second, the ostensible point of the Select Committee on Benghazi was to examine a terrorist attack that left four Americans dead in Libya, not to create an election tool that can affect a presidential candidate’s poll numbers.
Note, McCarthy sees the committee as a legitimate accomplishment of the Republican Congress, not because it’s uncovered relevant details about an act of terrorism, but because Hillary Clinton’s “numbers are dropping.” This, in his mind, is evidence of the GOP majority using its power effectively – by using a supposedly non-partisan investigatory vehicle to embarrass a Democrat with dubious allegations.
It’s almost as if the House Majority Leader assumed he was among friends, dropped his guard momentarily, and admitted out loud what Republicans are only supposed to say in private.
That last is important; explicitly stating the tacit principle is dangerous for Republicans; ask Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
But there is also this appearance that the presumed ascending Speaker of the House just admitted what everyone already knows, that the Congressional investigation into Benghazi was never about anything other than a chance to hunt Hillary Clinton. And, yes, that’s what he said, and it’s one thing to wonder what he meant, but we’ll never get an honest answer from Mr. McCarthy.
Still, as we hear those defenses of Mr. McCarthy’s terrible admission, ask yourself what should happen next. Should Democrats, in a future Congressional majority, conduct themselves this way? Imagine what a panel could do to Majority Leader McCarthy by seizing on this quote and then using its subpoena power to investigate every aspect of his life while intentionally leaking falsehoods in order to discredit him. And imagine they have years to deliberately slander and libel him under their Constitutional empowermentα to do so.
Except that really wouldn’t be fair, right? Except it would be, because that’s how Republicans have conducted themselves, and the problem with playing the dignified role is, quite obviously, that people prefer to believe the salacious indignity.β As the House Majority Leader explained, the Benghazi panel is succeeding because Hillary Clinton’s numbers are dropping in no small part because of the slanderous, libelous, lying circus Congressional Republicans have created.
But that’s the thing; voters generally pretend to not like this sort of stuff. And Republicans get away with it because, despite voters saying they don’t like it, they turn around and reward Republicans with votes, anyway. The part about saying things out loud is significant; it might not be, as Benen suggests, mere comfort among friends. Rather, Republicans have for so long found rewards for such behavior that they might be feeling too comfortable even among those who don’t agree with them. They actually have no reason to not admit their sleazy, even criminal abuse of the Congress they now control; after all, they keep getting elected. Which means, in this case, all eyes on Bakersfield.
α See U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 6, Paragraph 1: “They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.”
β We might also recall Mr. McCarthy’s apparently terrible public speaking skills, and wonder at the convenience; as many times as he might tell us, after the fact, what he actually meant, it does become functionally useful if voters let politicians get away with it. That is, if it’s hard to tell what politicians are saying, anyway, why not elevate those who can’t seem to speak properly to begin with? In the end, if we are to write off the Majority Leader’s confession as a #kev, then people really should take note of just how awful Mr. McCarthy’s presentation really is, because otherwise we’re going to waste a lot of the news cycle, and, because these are Congressional Republicans, the legislative session, running ’round and ’round the mulberry bush trying to figure out just what the hell conservatives mean and why they can’t manage to say it correctly the first time.
Benen, Steve. “GOP leader accidentally tells the truth about Benghazi committee”. msnbc. 30 September 2015.
Dennis, Steven. “Kevin McCarthy Gives Boehner B-, Credits Benghazi Committee for Hurting Hillary Clinton’s Poll Numbers”. Roll Call. 30 September 2015.