After eleven grueling, often mind-numbing hours of testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it seemed as if the GOP member of the Benghazi committee had met their match. Clinton remained calm, cool, and collected for most of the hearing, with Democratic members throwing barbs, while Republicans found new ways to ask the same question several dozen times. As the hearings wound to an end, I had a thought: what if this has nothing to do with Benghazi or stopping Clinton’s march to the White House? It sounds ludicrous. After all, Republicans have orchestrated Benghazi hearings for years with the goal of putting an end to Clinton’s dreams of winning the presidency, but with just a year until the general election, and a clown car of a GOP primary field, Republican members of Congress may consider Clinton all-but-invetiable. So why grill Clinton for 11 hours?
Congressional Republicans have elections to win in 2016 too. Their own.
See, it’s expensive to run for office and most members of Congress will never receive 11 consecutive hours of earned media again in their careers. Hell, there might be a large swath of Congress that will never receive 11 total hours of earned media in their careers. Earned media is free media and that free media can be repackaged for paid media (TV/web ads) or used in carefully crafted fundraising emails. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see several members of the Benghazi committee use their efforts to fundraise, once the insanity dies down and we return to our regularly scheduled political programming. After 11 hours of testimony, the GOP didn’t get what they wanted, which was Clinton effectively locking herself out of the White House. Permanently. She didn’t do that, so now what? The GOP field is lead by a reality star and a neurosurgeon who will undoubtedly require surgery for foot-in-mouth disease at some point during the campaign. Jeb! Bush is struggling in the polls, and there’s no real indication that Marco Rubio will assume front-runner status by the time the primaries and caucuses roll around early next year. Much will change over the next several months, but after today, there’s nothing that will dissuade me and the pundit class from claiming Clinton is the prohibitively front runner for both the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
If I’m a member of Congress, I say fuck it, and start using my earned media to raise money back home. It’s easy to consider this a wary strategy that will cause serious blowback to Republicans insistent that the Benghazi committee has nothing to do with politics and all about the truth. I still say fuck it. Why? Most of the Republicans represent districts that in no way will elect a Democrat, and they can still spin their attacks on Clinton as a search for the truth, and yes, even efforts to stop Clinton from winning in the fall. Sounds risky, but consider this, committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-SC, won his district with more than 85 percent of the vote in 2014 and didn’t even have a Democratic challenger (only a Libertarian stepped into that race). Martha Roby, R-AL, asked some of the silliest, most vapid questions of the day–which is saying something. Roby won her district with 66.1 percent in 2014, and a Democrat has yet to declare their intentions to challenge Roby in 2016. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, who was perhaps the most condescending towards Clinton–and will instantly garner support among his base for doing just that–won the Kansas 4th with nearly 67 percent of the vote last year. Pompeo’s district is 83 percent white, which also seems to guarantee victory come 2016.
To make a long story short: the only struggle any of the aforementioned Republicans–and probably every GOPer on the Benghazi committee–could face in 2016 are primary challengers from the right. Democrats cannot and will not mount serious challenges, even if the incumbents invoke the Benghazi hearings on the campaign trail and in fundraising efforts, so again, fuck it. They didn’t take down Clinton, but they need to get reelected so they go ahead and start the inevitably impeachment talk. Appease the base with red meat and you keep your cushy government job, with a nice salary, great benefits, and a less than moderate amount of work. So, if you see a fundraising email related to Benghazi, don’t be surprised. That’s politics, baby.
The GOP bloviated and attacked Clinton for 11 hours, but were essentially fighting windmills. Don Quixote fought a valiant fight too, but in the end, it only served to extend a bizarre fantasy. If Congressional Republicans are Don Quixote, their supporters are nothing more than Sancho Panza, following a false knight into a fight they can’t comprehend, nor win. American politics at its best and worst. Reps like Gowdy, Roby, Pompeo, Lynn Westmoreland, R-GA, and others will fight windmills to victory in 2016 as hundreds of thousands of Sancho Panza’s wave rally signs, make contributions, and phone calls, believing full well they are fighting the good fight on behalf of heroes.
Clinton, meanwhile, will continue her slow, steady, and composed march to the White House. She was the adult in the room today and lord knows we’ll need an adult in the White House come 2017.