If you have been following the Benghazi story—and what flag-waving American patriot hasn't?—then you know Republicans were giddy jubilant surprised saddened and troubled recently when an email surfaced that might help them torpedo Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects get to the bottom of this political gold mine terrible tragedy.
Republicans have been pursuing this case with the monomania of Captain Ahab because they are convinced there is a smoking gun somewhere that will lance the festering pustule at the heart of this scandal. Or at least a bayonet on the end of a gun that will do it. They think the email, by deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes, is that smoking bayonet. Written Sept. 14, 2012—two days after the attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and seven weeks before the presidential election—it sought to craft the message Ambassador Susan Rice would deliver on the Sunday-morning talk shows.
Republicans say the email proves what they have known all along. And that is ... wait, you had better sit down for this. It is pretty astounding stuff, so brace yourself. All set? You sure? OK then. The email, Republicans say, proves that the Obama White House lied to the American people for political purposes.
Almost too incredible to believe, isn’t it? Has there ever been an administration in U.S. history that has ever misled the American public before? Even one?
The allegation is all the more shocking because it comes from the GOP. Republicans have been sticking up for Barack Obama's honesty and integrity ever since a few crackpots started questioning the validity of his birth certificate during the 2008 presidential race.
The administration coughed up the Rhodes email in response to a freedom-of-information request by the conservative group Judicial Watch. Conservatives are aghast that it had not surfaced before. They say withholding it until now amounts to a cover-up of a cover-up.
The first cover-up was the attempt to portray the Benghazi attack as a spontaneous eruption of outrage over an obscure YouTube video rather than as a deliberate terrorist attack, which would have given ammunition to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The second cover-up was the attempt to deny that the first cover-up was politically motivated. Unlike Watergate, which involved the cover-up of an actual crime, Benghazi involves the cover-up of a cover-up of ... what, exactly? At this point in the conversation Republicans respond that—hey, look, a squirrel!
Mystified Democrats can't see what all the fuss is about. Yes, Americans died (unlike in Watergate)—and yes, mistakes were made. But as Hillary Clinton herself said, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" Why not let bygones be bygones?
After all, when the Nixon administration tried to cover up the Watergate break-in, did Democrats make a big fat deal out of it? Of course not. They forgave and forgot.
When the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, did Democrats drag officials before Congress to answer a bunch of questions on live TV? Of course not.
When detainee abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to light, did Democrats waste everyone’s time trying to prove that responsibility went all the way to the top—or did they simply accept the explanations that were tendered at face value and let it go?
For that matter: When George W. Bush took the world to war based on a false premise about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, were there any political repercussions? Heck no. As countless bumper stickers put it, "Bush Lied, People Died—But What Difference, at This Point, Does It Make?"
Liberals have no interest in trying to embarrass future presidential prospects. When certain political appointees in New Jersey orchestrated a massive traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge, everyone had a good chuckle and then let it go. Nobody—least of all Democrats or the media—tried to pin it on Gov. Chris Christie.
Democrats are now spluttering with outrage that the House will convene yet another committee to investigate Benghazi. This comes on top of the three Senate investigations and four House investigations that have investigated Benghazi already. Talk about overkill!
This reaction is refreshing. It's nice to know that after 21 federal food-aid programs, 27 cash-assistance programs, 33 federal housing programs, 49 federal job-training programs, eight federal health care programs, several hundred federal agencies (nobody knows for sure), 74,000 pages of federal tax rules, and 78,000 pages of federal regulations, liberals have discovered government bloat. Their concern is completely sincere, and motivated entirely by their long-standing passion for protecting the president's backside improving the efficiency of federal operations.
This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.