Here’s a non sequitur for you: Kevin McCarthy said something blatantly political about Hillary Clinton the other day, therefore Hillary Clinton is innocent of all wrongdoing going back to 2010.
This logical fallacy also happens to be the Democratic Party’s positon on the Select Committee on Benghazi. As you may have heard, McCarthy, majority leader and probable future Speaker of the House, went on Sean Hannity’s television show and said this:
Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? 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, had we not fought.
Set all press releases to outrage. And prepare to be subjected to one of the most annoying sub-genres of D.C. political theater—that thing where everyone pretends to be shocked when we learn that politicians care about politics.
McCarthy’s comments, we’re told, were a pristine example of a Kinsley gaffe. Republicans inadvertently slipped and let everyone know their true motivation: painting Hillary Clinton as “untrustable.” (As if this contention was somehow outlandish or hidden by anyone.) Vox contends McCarthy’s politicking corrodes the credibility of government—not Hillary’s private servers, not the access she may have traded while employed by the state, not the fact that two American diplomats and two CIA employees were murdered under her watch, or that as secretary of State she may have misled the country about that event, but that the investigating committee, like every committee before it, is helmed by partisans.
Anyway, “The Select Committee on Benghazi’s investigation has long appeared partisan,” Vox informs us. Which is true.
For starters, it’s implausible that a majority of Democrats would ever investigate Hillary Clinton on their own, no matter what she’d done or hidden or lied about, because of the dominant incentive to defend their partisan interests. Republicans will scrutinize Hillary whenever they can because they have different incentives. Both postures are comparably partisan. Neither precludes the committee from finding out the truth—a goal both parties once claimed.
Not any more. “Dems accuse GOP Leader McCarthy of admitting Benghazi panel is political,” says this Fox News headline. So it’s time to end the investigation, says the unprejudiced Linda Sánchez and Elijah Cummings. So isn’t it just as explicitly “political” to demand an end to an investigation that’s already uncovered (and spurred media inquiries that have uncovered) all kinds of shadiness before even hearing the evidence or speaking with any witnesses? How could you possibly already know the entire committee is a sham when every day we learn something new through Hillary’s once-secret emails?
If the Republicans on the committee are going to look like they’re on a partisan witch hunt that exploits the deaths of four Americans for political gain, then it will almost surely backfire on them. But if this is true, isn’t it also true that those attempting to bury an investigation surrounding the very same tragedy in hopes of insulating a preordained presidential candidate are equally distasteful and partisan?
Rarely is this debate framed in that way. Writers at left-wing and mainstream publications often operate under the misconception that their interpretations are apolitical. So we can forgive them for periodically forgetting, even as evidence mounts (sometimes in their own publications) that Clinton was involved in shady activities, that partisanship originates from both sides.
Every reporter covering this story knows well that the indignation over McCarthy’s remarks is nothing more than dissembling. It reminds me of the Planned Parenthood video kerfuffle that’s going on with Carly Fiorina. The best way to evade an interrogation —whether we’re talking about videos or servers—is to divert attention and blow a piddling inconsistency out of proportion, or nitpick and parse a supposed gaffe enough to discredit the entire case. Question the motivation and honesty of your accusers and you might never have to answer a real question.
But watch the whole interview. McCarthy takes credit for the political upside of holding someone responsible for her actions. That is, by the way, very different than contending the committee exists solely for a political purposes. Some of Hillary’s deteriorating poll numbers were expected, attributable to the fact that she is actually running for office. But it is undeniable that committee’s work (as well as the investigations it has spurred in the media) have Hillary on the defensive. If she’s acted “untrustable”— and by any reasonable standard she has—it only reaffirms, partisan or not, that they need to dig.
It doesn’t really matter if party allegiance propels inquiry, as long as that inquiry is meaningful. In theory, one of the most valuable features of a two-party political system is that one will check the other—whether we’re talking about ideology or abuse of power.