Beyond Benghazi: What Republicans must do to beat Hillary

Hillary Clinton shows her appreciation for Congress while testifying Wednesday. (Doug Mills / The New York Times)

Hillary Clinton shows her appreciation for Congress while testifying Wednesday. (Doug Mills / The New York Times)

The House committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead did not end its work after questioning Hillary Clinton yesterday. Despite what you may have heard from numskulls like Kevin McCarthy and Democrats desperate to close what has proved to be a damaging chapter of Clinton’s record as secretary of state, Clinton is not the primary reason House members continue to look into the events leading up to and following that attack. The fact is that a previous House committee and even an independent Accountability Review Board left significant gaps in the public record of just what happened, as committee Chairman Trey Gowdy outlined during his opening remarks yesterday:

“(T)he House of Representatives, including some Democrats I hasten to add, asked this committee to write the final accounting of what happened in Benghazi. This committee is the first committee to review more than 50,000 pages of documents, because we insisted that they be produced. This committee is the first committee to demand access to more eyewitnesses, because serious investigations talk to as many eyewitnesses as possible. This committee is the first committee to thoroughly and individually interview scores of other witnesses, many of them for the first time. This committee is the first committee to review thousands of pages of documents from top State Department personnel. This committee is the first committee to demand access to relevant documents from the CIA, the FBI, the Department Of Defense and even the White House.

“This committee is the first committee to demand access to the emails to and from Ambassador Chris Stevens. How could an investigation possibly be considered serious without reviewing the emails of the person most knowledgeable about Libya?

“This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personnel email on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record, including e-mails about Benghazi and Libya, in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office.”

Every one of those points is serious stuff. You want to know why Congress isn’t done looking into Benghazi? Because of the shortcomings of those investigations — including, yes, a prior congressional investigation led by House Republicans. As for the ARB, Gowdy pointed out its members were selected by State Department officials, and they did not even interview Clinton, review her emails or leave transcripts of their interviews. “That is not independent,” Gowdy said. “That is not accountability. That is not a serious investigation.” His own committee, he noted at one point yesterday, still has about 20 witnesses to interview before it’s done.

So the committee has a perfectly legitimate purpose. Quite independent of that purpose, its work is proving damaging to Clinton’s presidential candidacy. The revelation Gowdy mentioned about his committee being the first to reveal publicly that Clinton exclusively used a private email account while at State — leading to the discovery she’d unilaterally deleted some 30,000 emails from her homebrew server, and a series of ever-evolving excuses about why and how she made that arrangement — is worthy of public knowledge. That it also has caused her reputation for honesty, among other things, to plummet in opinion polls is but an understandable consequence of that public knowledge.

***

Here, though, a word of caution to those Republican presidential candidates and operatives who are focused on how to defeat Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in next year’s election. If you think these findings alone are going to sink Clinton, you have truly learned nothing from the 2012 election.

In 2012, Mitt Romney and the GOP apparently believed it was sufficient to talk about Obamacare, spending during President Obama’s tenure, and everything else unpopular Obama had done, presenting Romney as “not Obama.” Given the lack of success of Republican candidates in winning the primary as “not Romney,” the inefficacy of that approach should have been apparent. But they don’t call the GOP the “stupid party” for nothing.

Next year, we will learn whether you can teach dumb elephants new tricks. Because if their pointing out Clinton’s flaws is not a small element of their campaign, overshadowed by their own positive vision for where they can lead the country, they will be sitting on the Capitol lawn come Jan. 20, 2017, watching Bill grin as Hillary is inaugurated.

Even to the extent negative campaigning is helpful, Clinton will not be undone by the Benghazi findings and email scandal, short of an actual indictment (the prospect of which was pretty much extinguished when Joe Biden said he wasn’t going to run, likely signaling the White House will quash any attempt to charge her no matter what the FBI turns up in its own investigation of the emails).

***

For a start, they should try pressuring Clinton to say if she would have done as Obama did yesterday and vetoed a bipartisan defense spending bill for reasons unrelated to defense spending or policy.

Oh, Obama dredged up a few security-related excuses to justify his action. But it has been clear all along that his real aim is to force Republicans to give in on his demand that they lift the caps on domestic spending imposed by sequestration. It is rather rich to hear Obama and his supporters, having brazenly taken credit for the modicum of fiscal discipline that congressional Republicans forced on him via sequestration, now say those caps should be lifted everywhere or else military members won’t get their paychecks. For all the cries about partisanship in Washington, it will be instructive to see if enough Democrats can muster the courage to do the right thing and help override his irresponsible veto.

Either way, Clinton should not be allowed to skate on this question. She wants to be commander-in-chief; she should say whether she would do as Obama did, or instead stand with our soldiers and their families. In 2008, she suggested Obama wasn’t ready to take the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call. But more often, the problem for Obama has been the 3 p.m. phone call — the one he hasn’t made to members of Congress to work toward a resolution, or in this case, the one he took about a piece of bipartisan legislation that passed over his objections and veto threats.

The Benghazi investigation is telling us much about Clinton’s character and judgment. But Americans also deserve to know whether she’d play politics with the military as Obama is doing.

Reader Comments 0

120 comments
PudHead
PudHead

The problem was and is that the GOP does not know what to ask, like “Since you did not see the 600 request for help, who was fired for doing nothing, and doesn’t the buck stop with you? “. “How come ANY government employee during their working hours use ANY other email service except the .gov address assigned to them?” Gee I see a new law being born here….. Maybe the ambassador could have found his boss if they were in the .gov address book on their .gov email….But that would make too much sense…

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@PudHead

...who was fired for doing nothing, and doesn’t the buck stop with you?

Mismanagement is no biggie in Washington. For proof, see the DoJ's ruling on Lois Lerner.

I wonder about the buck in Washington. Passing it is acceptable. Bucking the system is not.

DeborahinAthens
DeborahinAthens

Maybe if the Republicans would focus on finding the root of the problem which seems to be lack of security at a distant outpost--not an EMBASSY as finger pointers keep saying--instead of political grandstanding like Gowdy and that witch that kept beating Ms Clinton over the head with the fact that she sent an e-mail from home....alone. She kept going at it. "So, you were home...alone?" Hilary laughed at the ludicrous question, and the witch said indignantly, "Do you find this funny?" Well, Republican clowns, We the People find you all hilarious! You have no ideas, you take no responsibility for your own disasters (60 people dead in attacks on EMBASSIES under Dubya''s watch), you snag on a useless, senseless piece of garbage and you all gnaw on it like a pack of salivating dogs. Only to find, in the end, it is garbage. We do not find it hilarious that you have wasted millions of dollars on these senseless hearings. This committee had the opportunity to fill in the blanks, and they chose to chew on the garbage.

blubuyou
blubuyou

Hmmm... how to beat Hillary? As far as I know. . .the republicans have not tried using a stick yet, but I suppose that that is something that must be in their arsenal since nothing else has seemed to work.

JoelEdge
JoelEdge

"...or instead stand with our soldiers and their families."

Hillary Clinton? Naaah. I think we already know her stance toward the military.

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

I see a lot of wishful thinking on this in conservative circles.

If the GOP doesn't think they messed this up royally, they are in for another rude awakening on election night.

A good starting point would be to come clean about how this turned out as a scam of an investigation, and say it didn't start out that way but was hijacked by some in the party and most definitely by the RW media.

Acting like it was carried out as expected just smacks of gross partisanship.

Juanx
Juanx

" The Benghazi investigation is telling us much about Clinton’s character and judgment". Kyle, how do you think Trump or Carson would have their "character and judgment" viewed by the world after an 11 hour Benghazi Prosecution? SOS Clinton was very Presidential. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"You want to know why Congress isn’t done looking into Benghazi? "

Because they do not know what the words futile and truth mean. Where is the smoking gun...not feeeeellllliiiinnnggggssss but actual facts. They can't beat Obama into submission, and still haven't done the same to Hillary. And I am not a Hillary supporter. Maybe the people tired of this crap need to sit these repubs down and grill them like they did Clinton on why they insist on wasting the taxpayers money and time. Move forward or resign.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Candidates can't be positive, because Republican personalities aren't positive.  Republicans are extremely fearful as a group.  That's why the love guns and want to attack any other country who does something we want.  It's why the end of the world was coming with Obama.  It's always a panic and fear tends to drive every decision. To continually feed their panicked mind state, the read sadistic new an slanted radio.  Anything to feed into the fear complex.


That's why Republican candidates always play the fear card and have fear based campaigns.  They work well with the base.  Inevitably, they will do the same with Hillary.  It's not because they are "stupid Republicans", but because its what their base wants to hear and will show up for.


You can disagree, but the proof is in the pudding during every campaign and every time you turn on the radio or Fox News.

ATLJacket
ATLJacket

@JFMcNamara Absolutely correct. It has been shown in studies that right-leaning people tend to react more positively to fear and negative stimulus than more left-leaning individuals. It is just the way they are wired. This post hits the nail on the head.

BigAintheBigA
BigAintheBigA

Unbelievable that we're in this state of affairs in this country. What we should do to defeat Hillary is prosecute her and put her in jail. She's a criminal.

eric pone
eric pone

Ok I don't see how this wins the GOP votes or achieves any changes that worth time and treasury being spent here? This just seems to be some partisan witch hunt that hopes to dig up something...anything that might stick. Problem is no one seems to care but the talk radio set and the GOP base. The polling doesn't show ANY positive benefit toward anyone.  I am not going to base my vote around the results of a congressional committee. I don't see how Congress right now has any credibility or moral high ground to do investigate this let alone convince moderates like me that this is worth caring about.  

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Kyle, you seem bothered by the ARB report's deficiencies, to the point where you say below in the comments:

Not even interviewing Hillary doesn't count?

So it got me wondering about an ARB report that seems to have earned a lot of praise over the years--that of the Beirut barracks bombing of 1983. It's available here:

http://www.paperlessarchives.com/FreeTitles/Beirut1983BombingDoDReport.pdf

Strange, then, that the word "Schultz"--who was, after all, Secretary of State at the time?--does not appear anywhere in it. Was he actually interviewed? I can't find any evidence that he was.


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex "Strange, then, that the word "Schultz"--who was, after all, Secretary of State at the time?--does not appear anywhere in it."

Maybe because this was the report on the attack on a defense facility? There was a separate attack on an embassy. I don't know whether Schultz was interviewed for that one.

EliasDenny
EliasDenny

Good luck on winning the next presidential election and without a lot of new people at the national level it will be a long time.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

Kyle, it sounds like you think temporarily suspending military pay and benefits is somehow the same as actually cutting military benefits.


One is ugly and despicable, the other is just politics.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Finn-McCool "temporarily suspending"

Funny, this isn't the language that is normally used for temporary suspensions of payments under a government shutdown, which has the same root cause (failure to pass an appropriations bill).

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Not a bad approach, Kyle.

Getting Hillary to say her character and judgment exceeds Obama's will never happen. She needs his supporters.

She's looking to be the first "black" female president, or if we're to exclude gender (which she'd never do)...

the third "black" president.

schnirt 

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

I'm certainly glad we didn't pay for those previous investigations with our tax dollars......

lvg
lvg

Kyle:


1. The ARB report exonerated anyone at her level of responsibility for the lack of adequate protection for the four dead  Americans except that she should have badgered Congress for more funding for protection;  Nothing  this committee has done changes those findings.

2. Hillary has repeatedly stated she accepts full responsibility;She did not create the talking points on the movie and it was a factor in the violence like every ME country had riots over it.

3. The CIA played a vital part in protection of the Ambassador, and Hillary did not control the CIA or its response;

4. Her predecessor , Condi  Rice took no responsibility for 9-11 despite being National Security Adviser, and she lied repeatedly under oath about warnings given before 9-11;

5. 3,000+ Innocent Americans died on 9-11 because the person clearly in charge of National Security did not do their job . Contrast that to four American career diplomats and military personnell knowingly putting themselves in harms way in a very dangerous location BIG DiFFERENCE!

It is an insult to most Americans intelligence to claim Hillary blew it on 9-11 and the Bush folks did not as Jeb! claims.


Yes Hillary's personal e-mails raise questions about her personal life and statements. I would love to see all of  Gowdys, Westmoreland's and other GOP members of the committee's e-mails   too before I pass judgment.

You are right the GOP is the stupid party has accomplished nothing by these hearings that  justifies the expense and time involved.Hillary's character flaws did not come out in this hearing like they did in the last with the cold "What difference does it make" comment. GOP needs to demand full examination of redacted 9-11 report if they are going to scream coverup on Benghazi.

LDH2O
LDH2O

" You want to know why Congress isn’t done looking into Benghazi? Because of the shortcomings of those investigations — including, yes, a prior congressional investigation led by House Republicans." Fool me once shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me. Yep, the Republicans had an investigation then said that they did failed to do it right so they want another one. How many times do they get to do it right, or is it how many times they get to do it till they get the political results they want?

DMayr
DMayr

Here's a unique approach to beating Hillary (or any other presidential candidate, regardless of party affiliation): come up with your own candidate who has the experience, vision and values that are appealing to a majority of US voters. Not to an ideological profile; not to a few billionaires, but to the average American voting public.


I suspect this falls on deaf ears, but I think the idea has some merit...

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Hillary used PERSONNEL email?  Really?  I think that would not be a problem.


In all these things this committee says it is the only one to do, what has it found that was not known already?  i mean, WHAT?

ByteMe
ByteMe

But it has been clear all along that his real aim is to force Republicans to give in on his demand that they lift the caps on domestic spending imposed by sequestration.

I thought the point of it was to adjust DoD priorities from those that Congress wanted to those that the Commander in Chief wanted.

Or maybe it was so that they would stop trying to make it difficult to close Gitmo and transfer everyone out of there.


Hard to be positive it's because of domestic spending, which wasn't in the DoD budget anyway.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@ByteMe "Hard to be positive it's because of domestic spending, which wasn't in the DoD budget anyway."

No, it wasn't in the DoD budget, which is why it's so egregious that this bill is being held up over domestic spending.

And I'm not making that up; check the next-to-last link the OP.

Robert1959
Robert1959

Path to the White House:
1st Black American - President Obama (2008-2016)  
1st American Woman - Mrs. Hillary Clinton (2016-2024)  
1st Hispanic American - (2024-2032)  
1st Asian American - (2032-2040)  
 
President Obama and the American People have changed the direction of the USA forever. No longer can the GOP rely on winning all the southern states and rally the rebels (old white people) all across the USA and win the White House (50 year old - Southern Strategy). That racist strategy is broken beyond repair.  
 

Every single one of those issues has been hashed over repeatedly in congressional hearings, media reports and State Department investigations. The GOP knows that and recognizes the embarrassment that will come should Republicans start chasing the Benghazi rabbit down that well-worn rabbit hole once again. But many members of the GOP don't understand and don't care. They are perceived as out of touch because they ARE out of touch. They are utterly unable to rise above the narrow, paranoiac obsessions of their base and of the conservative media that profits so handsomely by keeping that paranoia simmering right at the boiling point. Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi -- it tells us nothing, but when you think about it, it tells us everything. The issue is recognizing you have a problem and taking the corrective actions required to solve the problem.

I disagree with your comments concerning President Obama's "veto".  President Obama has "veto" very few over the past 7 years and has issued only a few executive orders which is much less than any other President in our modern times.


I think our young people will once again lead and will show-up at the town hall meetings, etc., and support candidates that will represent all the American People.

The tea party? Ask 100 young people do they support the tea party? The majority answer is NO. With the re-election of President Obama in 2012, who carried the "young voters" with over 90% signaled the end of the tea party. The tea party is dead and will not play a major role in politics in 2016.

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

The problem with beating Hillary has nothing to do with her policies, she will get 40 to 42 percent of the vote because her supporters only care about a single issue, SHE'S a WOMAN and they can't tell you ONE meaningful thing she has ever accomplished and they believe her when she says she will tax the rich to give to them when in reality, she will tax them while taking donations from the rich because she and Bill ARE a 1 percenters.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

Also I think the whole 11 hours of questioning is as ridiculous as it sounds. Really. 11 hours of back and forth chattering. And what policies/procedures are going be implemented to prevent a Benghazi-like attack from happening again? Anyone. Bueller ... Bueller. 

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

 But they don’t call the GOP the “stupid party” for nothing.


Strong words there but they ring true. Unless the GOP nominee can provide its own positives rather than degrade and taunt Hilary, we will have Bill as first ... lady? What would be his proper title? First Husband?

Nick_Danger
Nick_Danger

Perhaps we need a Committee to investigate why the previous investigatory Committees performed their job so poorly that even half-a-dozen investigations were unable to do the job.

Sounds like malfeasance at best, conspiracy at worst.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Nick_Danger 

Kyle already pointed out why one of the main investigations performed its job so poorly.  Didn't you read the OP?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Nick_Danger No secret there, they couldn't do the job because of stonewalling from the WH.  No emails from Hillary, no access to survivors, no emails from Stevens hampered their efforts.  It is like trying to prove someone was speeding when the officer is unable to attend the trial and no witnesses there either.  I think if you listen to Gowdy's opening remarks, he pointed out the reasons the prior committees were unable to do an adequate job, but go on with your accusations.

Dusty2
Dusty2

@Nick_Danger 


If this administration did not give us so many broken promises, twisted stories and sorry situations with  poor supervision and dubious reports, there would be no need for  investigations.   But Democrats just keep doing the wrong thing and then try to hide it.  This time we have a dead ambassador because of their lack of care and direction. You cannot hide THAT!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Easy answer - the GOP needs to surface effective leaders in the Congress, to lead the Party, and as nominees for President, and the Party and base need to align strongly behind them. Leaders who whine and cry and quit and demand limits on their commitment to service and badger the base for money while undercutting other Party leaders with personal attacks are NOT what we need.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Almost three-quarters of Americans now believe the investigation is motivated by a quest for political gain rather than by a genuine wish to get at the facts.


And that was before yesterdays debacle.


This is the kind of show trial one would see in North Korea etc

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@Hedley_Lammar You somehow see those as mutually exclusive objectives in a setting that is political by definition?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar "Still, asked another way, 51% say the committee is handling the investigation "appropriately" and has not gone too far. All of these questions provoke massive partisan divides."

"Dissatisfaction with Clinton's handling of Benghazi is widespread, 59% are dissatisfied, 36% satisfied. Among Democrats, 63% say they are satisfied, but large majorities of Republicans (85%) and independents (65%) say they are dissatisfied."

I'm sure you just overlooked these points ...

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@DawgDadII @Hedley_Lammar Ask yourself this and be honest


Would anyone care about Benghazi or Hillary's emails if she weren't running for President ?


Hint: The answer is no they wouldn't. I'm betting many on the committee couldn't tell you all 4 peoples names that died that day. And that tells you all you need to know about this committee and the previous 7 that cleared Hillary and the Obama WH.

Dusty2
Dusty2

Very sensible piece as usual, Kyle.  You get  Hedley scraping up all the old propaganda moves.  Takes a concerted effort to make Hillary look good.


We really should consider more about Hillary's moves on the military.  Or Obama's for that matter.  Democrats are now bringing out Prince Harry, Mrs. Obama and Biden's wife to make us forget about the lack of support for the military. Certainly not mention the VA hospital reports among others.  OOH... They are shaking hands with the wounded with big smiles. Our wounded should have all the acclaim & care we can give them but this almost seems truly political.   Will Hillary have time to squeeze in a few smiles & hand shakes too?


Well, THE AMBASSADOR did not even get a handshake from Hillary.  But we are supposed to think otherwise.  It is too obviously true.  

M H Smith
M H Smith

@Dusty2 

.

Just a thought about our lack of military support 

.

15 Facts About Military Spending That Will Blow Your Mind


      1. For the past 13 years U.S. military spending has increased 114 percent. That's 8 percent higher than at the height of Reagan's presidency and the Cold War.

      2. America spends more on its military than THE NEXT 15 COUNTRIES COMBINED

      3. The total known land area occupied by U.S. bases and facilities is 15,654 square miles -- bigger than D.C., Massachusetts, and New Jersey combined.

      4. By 2033 the U.S. will be paying $59 billion a year to its veterans injured in the wars

      5. In 2007, the amount of money labeled 'wasted' or 'lost' in Iraq -- $11 billion -- could pay 220,000 teachers salaries

      6. Defense spending is higher today than at any time since the height of World War II

      7. America's defense spending doubled in the same period that its economy shrunk from 32 to 23 percent of global output*

      8. The yearly cost of stationing one soldier in Iraq could feed 60 American families.

      9. Each day in Afghanistan costs the government more than it did to build the entire Pentagon

      10. In 2008, the Pentagon spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earned in a year

      11. The pentagon budget consumes 80% of individual income tax revenue

      12. Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Defense Department still has more than 40 generals, admirals or civilian equivalents based in Europe

      13. The amount the government has spent compensating radiation victims of nuclear testing ($1.5 billion) could fully educate 13,000 American kids

      14. The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety

      15. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population -- but almost 50% of the world's total military expenditure


http://www.businessinsider.com/military-spending-budget-defense-cuts-2011-10

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Dusty2 The wounded aren't wounded because of the mess of Hillary or Obama, are they? THEY didn't start this mess.

ssinf
ssinf

Maybe Republicans should think less about what it takes to beat Hillary and more about offering their own vision of the country to voters.


That's the problem, you're so focused on taking down Hillary that there is no thought given to convincing voters why your ideas should prevail. GOP is in for a long 8 years at this rate. With the census happening during a presidential year in 2020, the outcome could mean quite a bit more time in the woods for national Republicans.

ssinf
ssinf

@Kyle_Wingfield 


You mentioned that nearly as an afterthought. The point is that the GOP aren't doing that; as though they are incapable of doing that. It's doom and gloom all the time. We need to take our country back, we need to make America great again.


Not a winning strategy. And it's unfortunate. There are many things to question about Dem policies, but when the alternative is Ben Carson or Donald Trump, my choice is pretty easy.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@ssinf "Maybe Republicans should think less about what it takes to beat Hillary and more about offering their own vision of the country to voters."

You mean, like I suggested in the post?