Markos Moulitsas: The epic fail on Benghazi

Markos Moulitsas: The epic fail on Benghazi
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If Republicans had half a brain, they would’ve canceled Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton asked if she'd be Bloomberg's vice president: 'Oh no' Trump launches three-day campaign rally blitz Free Roger Stone MORE’s testimony last week before the House Benghazi Inquisition. Her Democratic debate performance the week prior showed that she’s at the top of her game — but more than that, the epic day-long testimony showed that their sham of an investigation was even emptier than previously thought.

The former secretary of State was sharp, confident and resolute at the hearing, demonstrating super-human endurance in the 11-hour ordeal. Her calm demeanor persisted late into the night even as her Republican interrogators unraveled, so much so that even conservative pundits watched in horror. 

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“Why doesn’t [Kansas GOP Rep. Mike] Pompeo just go over and swear her in for president now — if he goes on like this he’ll practically get her elected,” fumed conservative commentator John Podhoretz. Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was equally incensed: “Any claim that this isn’t political is absurd on its face. Congrats, Republicans.” Hot Air writer Jazz Shaw chimed in, “Jesus, I spend half my day criticizing Hillary Clinton and even I find this set of questions embarrassing.”

The long hours betrayed the GOP’s lack of coherent narrative on the 2012 terrorist attack. What, exactly, do conservatives think Clinton is guilty of? 

Was it that she didn’t care about the victims, or was she too interested in a “mission accomplished” victory lap? (Ironic, I know.) Were they claiming that informal Clinton adviser and friend Sidney Blumenthal ran a shadow government, or was the fact that an anti-Muslim video was initially blamed for the violence somehow a cardinal sin? At one point, Pompeo even suggested that Clinton’s State Department had met with al Qaeda leaders in Libya before the attack. Was he actually suggesting she had coordinated the attack herself? 

It was clear no conspiracy theory from the dredges of conservatism was off-limits. It was also clear Republicans had no evidence for any of it.

For a party priding itself on message cohesion and coordination, the scattershot approach at the hearing proved what we already knew from the previous seven times the attack was investigated: the events were regrettable and tragic, but there was nothing beyond policy failures to pin on Clinton, and she’d already taken responsibility for those. 

The Republicans’ post-testimony damage control didn’t help their cause, still reeling from their epic public relations disaster. 

“It was a voluntary interview, and she wanted it to be in public,” whined Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on “Meet the Press.” “Of the 50-some odd interviews we have done thus far, the vast majority of them have been private.” 

As one Daily Kos commenter observed, “ ‘She tricked us by showing up and answering questions’ is quite literally the most pathetic excuse I’ve heard in politics during my life.”

It was particularly bizarre for Gowdy to argue for secrecy given the GOP’s supposed fight to bring the truth to light. Yet Republicans voted along party lines to keep Blumenthal’s testimony secret, lest the American people see just how little they were actually worried about Benghazi and how much was a fishing expedition desperate to find something — anything! — to pin on Clinton. 

So given their history of selective leaks and insinuations, why would Clinton agree to testify in secret? She’s wasn’t the one who had something to hide. 

Instead of damaging Clinton in her campaign for the White House, Republicans managed to portray her as stately and presidential. Their rank partisan attacks turned off a media no longer pretending Benghazi hysteria is nonpartisan. As for Democrats, many finally found a reason to rally around their probable nominee. 

If that’s what House Republicans hoped to achieve, mission accomplished!  

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.