In one way, at least, I was wrong about the importance of McCarthy’s Benghazi committee comments, since he has subsequently dropped out of the speaker’s race—though there’s good evidence that other major factors were involved, including his record of tongue-tiedness and his poor record for whipping votes. But I wanted to close up a loop on this story.
One precept of my schismatic sect of the Church of the Savvy is: Ask and ye shall receive. On Tuesday, I made a plea that any readers truly shocked by McCarthy’s comments—and his supposed implication that hurting Hillary Clinton was the committee’s goal—should let me know.
Several readers did. Their answers are interesting, and partly (though only partly, I believe) debunk my argument.
One reader said she had always believed the Benghazi committee’s primary goal was a sincere investigation of the incident, with damaging Clinton being an expected bonus. She was upset by McCarthy’s comments, which suggested that there was no purer motivation.
There’s a conservative counterpart to this feeling—people who felt something went badly wrong in Benghazi, but also figured there’d be a positive side effect of hurting Clinton. One unanswerable question is how big these two groups are; but the surprise seems to be about priorities more than about substance.
Here’s a variation on this theme from a reader:
There is this fairly large group of people who watch Fox News and think they are getting the news. They don’t know (or want to admit) it has been filtered to always put the GOP spin on it. Then there are those who listen to talk radio (Rush, et al.) and this group is also totally taken in by these entertainers and really do think they are getting the truth and the facts.
Now, how many of these people (in either group) do you actually think knew the whole Benghazi series of house committees was a concerted effort of the GOP to undermine and sabotage Clinton’s presidential hopes?
My reader also notes that some studies have found Fox viewers to be underinformed about the news, though there have been questions raised about those conclusions. I suspect most Fox viewers, like most MSNBC viewers, know exactly what they’re getting, at least in terms of the slant—it’s a conscious choice. So how many of them believed the Benghazi committee had pure motives? And how many of them still thought so, even as the committee hasn’t turned up any smoking guns on Benghazi?
It wouldn’t take much for a Fox viewer to suss out the double motive of the committee, though. Certainly, the network covered Democrats’ accusations that the committee was just political agitprop, and noted that the National Republican Congressional Committee was fundraising off the committee. The network also covered the question of whether the investigation would hurt Clinton politically.
Another reader writes to say that he suspected some ulterior motives, but that he didn’t think Clinton was the main target:
I felt that the select committee on Benghazi was formed to do two things: first and foremost, embarrass the president. That is a routine intent of all collective GOP actions. That of course includes former secretary Clinton, but I don't think “taking down Hillary” was an intent in the beginning, although it certainly is now.
The second purpose of the committee, I believe, is to attempt to figure out why the hell the ambassador was there in the first place, something that has never properly been explained by anyone, and to a lesser extent what the purpose of the “diplomatic mission” was, and how that mission was uncovered by the terrorists … Does that make me naïve, or you cynical, or something in between?
Here’s one more response from a reader who admitted he was surprised by what the majority leader said. If I’m a cynic, it seems I’m not alone:
I heard and was shocked by McCarthy’s admission. I mean how stupid can one be to say that out loud? Everyone knows the investigation is a political charade, but it was working until he blabbed! So disappointed in his level of political astuteness.