Isn't it just a hoot that Representative Kevin McCarthy's bid to replace John Boehner as House speaker came under withering attack and eventually collapsed because he told the truth?
In fact, it's hard to wring much humor out of this semi-shocker of a farce because it was an open secret that the Select Committee on Benghazi, which has spent $4.5 million of your money in conducting one of the longest congressional probes since the Pearl Harbor attack, had no intention of getting to the bottom of the September 2012 incursion by Islamic militants that took the life of J. Christopher Stevens, who was the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three others, and was solely a witch hunt custom made to sabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign and provide Republican presidential wannabes with a steady supply of ammo.
(A little perspective with your morning coffee: Congress also investigated President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina, which took 1,800 American lives. The five months of hearings cost a mere $90,000. Then there were the congressional hearings into Bush's $2 trillion Iraq war, which cost nearly 4,500 American lives . . . Oh, wait! There never were any hearings.)
When it comes to Benghazi, there are no more revelations to be revelated. The well is dry. Several other congressional committees and a panel of outside experts commissioned by the State Department investigated the attack and government’s response. They all concluded that the tragedy was preventable, condemned systemic failures at senior levels of the State Department, but found no evidence that Clinton, then secretary of state, was specifically to blame.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy boasted on (where else?) Fox News. "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 any of that had happened."
McCarthy came under attack from even some of his closest allies not because he lied. After all, politicians of all stripes lie with numbing regularity. It's hard to top the whopper told by Clinton's husband when he was president that "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," while Carly Fiorina has unashamedly made lying a hallmark of her presidential campaign (and how about her weird assertion that the undergraduate degree in medieval history she got at Stanford 40 years ago qualifies her to lead the fight against ISIS?).
But to utilize that rarest of political commodities -- the truth -- is a blasphemy in the Republican temple, and the last thing the GOP needs is a House speaker who isn't capable of lying through his teeth on cue. If there has been a moment in contemporary American politics when its abjectly corrupt state was revealed, this is it.
McCarthy's attempts to walk back his remarks were feeble: "It was never my intention to ever imply that this committee was political," he said in a grammatically-challenged statement earlier this week. "Because we all know it is not. And it has one sole purpose, let's find the truth wherever the truth takes us. And you know what? Sometimes truth comes out, and other manners, and let's not let politics hold that back."
FLIGHT OF THE CANDOR
Alas, the fallout from McCarthy's attack of truthiness will be transitory. Hillary Clinton will get to run TV ads decrying the Benghazi committee charade, which she already is doing ("The Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she’s fighting for everything they oppose!"), her poll numbers will not change appreciably, and we'll be treated to a retro revival version of The Bickersons, the 1940s radio comedy show in which the protagonists engaged in an endless verbal war.
The protagonists are played this time by a House Republican caucus now in a rudderless uproar over its many self-inflicted wounds (many administered by a cabal of congressfolk representing barely 3 percent of the population) and a political party unraveling at the seams not because of blowback from Democrats, let alone the public at large, but because of its own calculated agenda of spite, hate, deceit and lie after lie after bloody lie. The party that boasted it could govern is now a party in disarray, and it is a beautiful thing.
Less attractive is the double-barreled shotgun that House Republicans have put to their heads -- and the entire nation's, as well.
The Treasury Department will exhaust its authority to borrow money to fund the government on November 5 if Congress does not raise or suspend the government's statutory borrowing limit, meaning the government would default on its debt and risk economic chaos. Then, on December 11, a stopgap spending bill expires, and without congressional action, much of the government will shut down.
The last even vaguely comparable unraveling came in 1998 as the GOP-dominated House was voting to impeach President Clinton when another Republican speaker-in-waiting, Representative Robert Livingston of Louisiana, was forced to withdraw after he acknowledged he was cheating on his wife.
"Even then we knew we could resolve it ourselves,” said Representative Peter King of New York. "But now you have a situation where there are 30 or 40 people in their own party who say they are not going to vote for anyone no matter who it is. We have to end this. We look absolutely crazy."
MEET THE BAD ACID BEARS
McCarthy fell short of the votes he needed to replace Boehner even though he promised the candy store to the cannibals in the so-called Freedom Caucus. With him out of the picture, two of the leading bone picker-uppers are Jason Chaffetz and Harold Watson "Trey" Gowdy. Better examples of the caliber of House Republicans in the Age of Limbaugh and Coulter are not to be found, and the suspicion lingers that both did bad acid in college, and we're all paying for it years later.
Chaffetz has been a representative from Utah since 2009. He is the son of a man once married to Kitty Dukakis, wife of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee. He was a Jewish Democrat, then converted to Mormonism during his last year of college in Utah and joined the GOP when former President Reagan was hired as a motivational speaker for Nu Skin, an Amway-esque marketing company where Chaffetz worked before he entered politics.
A latter-day insurrectionist and Tea Partier who brings new meaning to the term ethically challenged, Chaffetz famously remarked that "politics is way too important to leave to the boors," and has lived up to that as he has lurched further and further to the right, advocating a ban on gay marriage, slashing Social Security and that old right-wing standby, impeaching President Obama. He recently was in the news for being called out by the president of Planned Parenthood for knowingly presenting a falsified chart during a rigged committee hearing and was chastized for shutting down State Department officials at a rigged Benghazi committee hearing when they dared speak the truth.
Gowdy has been a representative from South Carolina since 2011. He has a startling resemblance to Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series (and is likewise a bully), is chair of the Benghazi committee and made his name as part of the permanent scandal infrastructure team led by nutcase extraordinaire Darrell "Grand Theft Auto" Issa when he took over the House Government Oversight Committee after the 2010 election and vowed to conduct "seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks" to thwart Obama.
A Tea Partier and neo-Confederate with a Napoleon complex, Gowdy has made his mark by using his subpoena powers like a cattle prod and obstruction as a substitute for lawmaking. But his forte has been sponsoring bizarre legislation, including a 2014 bill that would allow the House to sue the president if it did not like the way he was enforcing the law. Gowdy, who has sponsored some 58 bills in all, has the distinction of not one ever being voted out of a House committee despite the overwhelming Republican majority.
A FINAL WORD
Calls for the Benghazi committee to disband will go unheeded because Democratic committee members don't have the votes and Hillary Clinton herself is scheduled to appear before it on October 22. The clash between the witch hunters and their very own witch might be something to relish were it not for the inconvenient reality that the hearings long ago became an insult to the memory of Ambassador Stevens and his three slain colleagues, just as the lack of hearings into the Iraq war insulted the memories of those nearly 5,000 Americans who died in vain. We can thank cowardly Democrats for that one, and the reliably hapless news media for preferring to become lapdogs to the Benghazi committee than blowing the whistle on it.
In fact, it seems as if the value of life in this country has become somewhat less than the cost of a bikini waxing. (What? Another school shooting? How many dead? Pass the ketchup.)
I sometimes forget that as I merrily do my own caffeinated shooting in Politix Update, typically Republican fish in the barrel known as Washington, and that is a shame. I apologize even if no one else in the barrel will.
Politix Update is an irregular compendium written by veteran journalist Shaun Mullen, for whom the 2016 presidential campaign is his (gasp!) 12th since 1968. Click here for an index of previous Politix Updates.
IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR. USED WITH PERMISSION.