Why Republicans Should Go Ahead and Raise Money Off Benghazi

Let it not be said that Democrats are incapable of meeting umbrage with umbrage. Yesterday, it came out that the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a fundraising email touting the new select committee on Benghazi; once you click through, you're told, "You're now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let's go after Obama & Hillary Clinton." Democrats got faux-outraged, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, who will be heading the committee, said he would never do any such thing: "I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans." Now John Boehner's being hounded at press conferences about the propriety of such shameless politicization of a tragedy.

Everybody get a grip. This is Washington. Everything is political. Are you telling me that as long as nobody used Benghazi to raise money, it would remain somehow outside the messiness of politics? Politics is all it's about, and all it has been about from the beginning.

The unstated assumption is that there's some kind of meaningful distinction between serious issues that must stand outside politics on the one hand, and on the other hand everything else, all the unimportant issues that you can go nuts on, with as much grandstanding and fundraising and TV-ad-making and whatever else you like. But that's just absurd. Yes, four people died in Benghazi, and that was awful. But thousands of lives are at stake in the argument over the Affordable Care Act. Are we going to say people shouldn't raise money with that? You could make a similar argument with almost any issue.

What matters isn't whether something is "politicized," what matters is the way it's politicized. If Republicans send out fundraising emails saying, "Donate today so we can elect more Republicans and have our 51st futile vote to repeal Obamacare!", there's nothing wrong with that. If they say, "Donate today so we can stop Obamacare's socialist death panels," the problem isn't that they're politicizing an important issue, it's that they're lying about it.

By the same token, I don't have any problem with the NRCC trying to use Benghazi  to raise money. You might get a little squeamish over the fundamental con involved, which is that if you give them fifty bucks you're really helping get to the bottom of this whole thing, but that's a rather more ordinary kind of dishonesty. And if the rubes on their email list want to believe that as they fork over their cash, well, they have only themselves to blame.

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