For 17 months, to the tune of $4.7 million, Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi have been promising the nation that the hounding of Hillary Clinton was something more than a waste of tax money and a partisan fishing expedition.
On Thursday, they put her on the stand for their big reveal.
The 11-hour marathon grilling of the former secretary of state – and current Democratic frontrunner for the White House — yielded nothing that Americans didn’t already know about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Libya that claimed the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues.
That wasn’t surprising: There have already been multiple congressional and other hearings into the tragic incident, with nine published reports and hundreds of pages of findings and recommendations.
Even the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee concluded, after a two-year investigation, that, though security in Benghazi was insufficient, there was no wrongdoing by the Obama administration, and the CIA and military acted properly.
So it is now time to disband this costly farce of a committee. Even as political theater, it hasn’t worked.
What did raise an eyebrow was how obviously uninterested the Republicans were in learning from Benghazi, in what might be done to make U.S. embassies safer, for instance, or to stop government shutdowns from threatening funding for security.
Though Ms. Clinton spoke of them, compellingly, the committee scarcely mentioned those who died besides Stevens — information officer Sean Smith and Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, former U.S. Navy SEALs working as CIA contractors.
Instead, the name Republicans kept raising, weirdly, was that of Sidney Blumenthal, the liberal political operative and Ms. Clinton defender.
Turns out Mr. Blumenthal sent the secretary of state emails sharing tidbits he’d heard about Libya and mean thoughts on conservative leaders. This is like learning that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Vice President Dick Cheney used to go duck hunting together. So what?
Enough is enough. It is clear at this point that, as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy blurted to Fox News’ Sean Hannity last month in an unguarded moment, this committee was about making Ms. Clinton “untrustable” and about driving down her poll numbers.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, the committee’s Republican chairman, has had a year and a half to take his shot. Committee member after committee member loaded up against Ms. Clinton, only to be shot down by facts.
And for all the stacks of emails and audiovisual aids and hours of testimony the committee generated on Thursday, nothing showed Benghazi to be anything but a terrible failure of security and intelligence in the midst of chaos.
And nothing showed Ms. Clinton to be in any way personally to blame for it.
It’s time to disband this costly farce of a committee. Even as political theater, it hasn’t worked. As with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, another accomplished woman hauled before Congress this season for another show trial, the hectoring of Ms. Clinton didn’t raise doubt as much it as raised money — on both sides.
The hearing had an unexpected result: It ended up being a campaign plus for the suddenly rejuvenated Ms. Clinton, fresh from her strong debate showing.
On Thursday, hour by hour, cool response after collected answer, Ms. Clinton only seemed more “trustable.”
This editorial was first published in the Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy newspaper.