There's a lot going on in the world: we have a new war ramping up, Ebola is spreading, and various NFL players are discovered beating the crap out of women and children (and I for one am shocked that a group of men who have spent their lives being rewarded for cultivating their most violent instincts and abilities would turn out to be prone to violence). So it may have missed your notice that today marks the beginning of public hearings in the select committee on Benghazi, or as Ed Kilgore has termed it, Benghazi! In advance, Democrats on the committee have set up a website showing how all the questions the committee is asking have already been answered, while a Republican PAC is already airing Benghazi-themed ads against Hillary Clinton. But if you were hoping to tune in this afternoon for thundering denunciations and dark warnings of conspiracy, you may be disappointed, as David Corn reports:
In a surprising move that might disappoint right-wingers yearning for proof that Benghazi is Obama's Watergate (or worse!), the session will not focus on whether the White House purposefully misled the public about the attacks on the US diplomatic compound in that Libyan city that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Nor will it probe the favorite right-wing talking point that President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, for God-knows-what reasons, ordered US forces to stand down and not respond to the murderous assault. Instead, the committee will examine the State Department's implementation of the recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board, an independent outfit that investigated the attack and in late 2012 issued proposals for improving security for American diplomats and US diplomatic facilities overseas.
That's actually a worthy topic of discussion! I suppose committee chair Trey Gowdy deserves some credit for starting things off by trying to show everyone that this is going to be a serious undertaking. That isn't to say there won't be plenty of time given over to bashing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, because there surely will be. But on its first day, the committee looks unlikely to generate dramatic headlines.
So how is this all going to play out? As I see it, there are three general possibilities:
1. For the most part, the committee goes about its work in a responsible way. While there are some angry confrontations with witnesses, on the whole things are pretty boring. Without much in the way of fireworks, press coverage of the hearings is rather perfunctory. Base Republicans wind up feeling disappointed and even betrayed, assuring themselves that the Republicans on the committee wimped out, perhaps because they knew that if they got too close to the truth, State Department assassination squads would take out their families. The true scope of the conspiracy remains buried under a mountain of lies and cowardice. Odds: 37%
2. Full-on circus. Republicans on the committee do a great deal of shouting; photos of the aftermath of the attacks are repeatedly projected on the wall of the hearing room. News coverage is somewhat greater, as nothing draws a crowd of reporters more than politicians yelling at each other. Despite the fact that the "truth" is never fully revealed, the GOP base is pleased. Yet the net effect of the whole thing is to make Republicans look like crazy people. In a cruel irony, this result greatly aids the presidential campaign of one Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is able to say that she's being attacked by a bunch of crazy people, and say it with a smile that drives Republicans around the bend. Odds: 62.99%
3. The committee actually discovers that there was a sinister conspiracy that led to the Americans' deaths, with high-ranking administration officials at its center. All their accusations, not to mention the creation of this committee, are vindicated, and the moral rot at the heart of the Obama regime is finally revealed for all to see. Odds: .01%
Those are my predictions, anyway. But who knows — maybe they'll surprise us.