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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tape Shows Benghazi 'Scandal' Kept Artificially Alive by Far Right Activists

About a week ago, President Obama mentioned "phony scandals" that were drawing attention and effort away from the real work Washington needs to do to rebuild the economy. "With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals," he said in a speech on the economy at Knox College, "Washington has taken its eye off the ball. And I am here to say this needs to stop... Our focus must be on the basic economic issues that the matter most to you -- the people we represent."

Those remarks became a minor scandal in itself, the daily worst thing ever! we've all become so familiar with. The unceasingly outraged right were outraged at the outrageousness of this latest outrage. "It is dismissive. It is insulting. It is minimizing. It's not validating the concerns that people have," Rep. Michele Bachmann said, as if validating unfounded concerns was something anyone should be interested in doing.

A lot of critics ran to the Benghazi story -- although the president didn't mention it directly. People died, they said, did they make those deaths up?

Well, no. They didn't make up the deaths, just the controversy over them. New evidence shows a concentrated effort between GOP leadership and conservative activists to turn a foreign policy tragedy into a "scandal" that was supposed to rock the presidency.


David Corn: As Mother Jones revealed last week, Groundswell, the hush-hush right-wing strategy group partly led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wanted to hype the Benghazi tragedy into a full-fledged scandal for the Obama administration, as part of its "30 front war" on the president and progressives. A secret audio tape of one of Groundswell's weekly meetings shows that prominent members of the group pressed House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House oversight committee, to expand the Benghazi investigation and make this supposed scandal a top-priority for congressional Republicans. This recording indicates Groundswell's mission extends beyond message coordination to scandal-stoking.

The tape has been posted at Crooks and Liars, a progressive web site, and it captured the first 20 minutes of Groundswell's May 8 meeting. (The site does not say how the recording was obtained.) The meeting opened with a prayer ("Father, we thank you for the opportunity to gather here as free Americans"), and a roll call was taken. Among those present were former GOP Rep. Allen West, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, and Ginni Thomas. Catherine Engelbrecht, a founder of True the Vote, led the meeting, and the first order of business was a report on the Benghazi controversy from Boykin and Gaffney.

The pair reported on meetings they had held the previous night with Boehner and Issa. The two Groundswellers had encouraged the lawmakers to set up a special committee to investigate the attacks on the US facilities in Benghazi. Boykin, according to the recording, noted that Boehner had said he wanted the process "to play out" first, apparently meaning that he wasn't yet ready to step up the GOP Benghazi campaign. Boehner, Boykin recounted, had expressed the concern that were he to create such a committee, the media would cover it as a political stunt designed to bring down Obama.
The wingnut propagandists/activists still haven't gotten their special committee, they've gotten their scandal. The Breitbart hack told them how to handle the hype; "Don't mention impeachment of Hillary Clinton, he cautioned, for that would only politicize the issue and 'hurt the goal' of establishing a special congressional committee."

A couple of names in that group leaped out at me. Family Research Council is a bona fide hate group, in which Boykin is a perfect fit. And if you had to describe Gaffney as anything, you'd have to say he was a "hate person" or a one man hate group. He's also a birther. That Ginni Thomas is associated with these crazies does not say good things about her ideology and that these people have what seems to be on demand access to House GOP leadership is pretty disturbing. Go any farther right on the political spectrum than these lunatics and you're talking genuine neo-Nazis, Timothy McVeigh-style survivalist/militia types, or the Westboro Baptist Church hate cult.

That a plan for keeping Benghazi alive is the product of this particular brain trust tells you all you need to know about its status as a "scandal." They're all about as credible as Glenn Beck and their conspiracy theories have as much basis in reality.

In the end, the scandal isn't Benghazi -- which has been so thoroughly debunked that you wonder why Republicans still want to bring it up. The real scandal is that this small group of crazies has any influence at all with the leadership of the Republican Party. If we can be judged by the company we keep, then John Boehner and Darrell Issa should be judged very, very poorly.

And yes, Benghazi is a phony scandal, kept lurching along in undead zombitude by the mad political scientists at wherever Groundswell HQ happens to be. Phony as they come.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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