Kevin McCarthy’s Benghazi Moment

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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In case you haven’t heard, the presumed next House speaker recently raised eyebrows with comments about the Benghazi select committee. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” presumed future House speaker Kevin McCarthy told Sean Hannity. “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.”

Just because evidence derived from the Benghazi investigation ended up harming Hillary Clinton’s political prospects doesn’t mean the motives were ignoble or partisan.

You and I know that, but McCarthy’s comments allow Clinton to muddy the waters — and to present some tortured shred of evidence a “vast rightwing conspiracy” is out to get her.

The problem, of course, is that fact-finding investigations are supposed to be unbiased — or, at least, appear that way (we all know partisans on both sides have agendas). You’re not supposed to go on a fishing expedition hoping to reverse engineer an outcome. In this regard, some view McCarthy’s statement as a “Kinsley gaffe” that accidentally revealed the truth.

So why did he say it? McCarthy was talking to a predominately conservative audience, attempting to explain why investigating Planned Parenthood was just as good as shutting down the government in a quixotic effort to defund the group. He clearly felt that he was a) talking to a conservative audience, and b) required to persuade them that investigating the group was a smarter way to accomplish this goal.

This was an almost inevitable outcome of a situation where Republican leaders are more afraid of offending the conservative base than they are of giving the Left ammunition. This makes Republicans more susceptible to committing gaffes that will be exploited by liberals.

You could argue that this is what happens when our leaders don’t engender loyalty — or that this is what happens when a base doesn’t give its leaders enough leeway or latitude to diplomatically say what needs to be said for public consumption. Either way, this gaffe was an inexorable byproduct of a Republican Party that is still undergoing some serious soul searching.

Matt K. Lewis