Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't retreat, reload

I can't imagine that Paul Waldman is right that the end of the Benghazi!tm scandal is nigh. Everything Waldman says about what is happening this week is correct. What he doesn't account for is how the Republican Party behaves these days. They don't give up on any point, even when it is abundantly clear that the point is no longer working to their benefit.

We have seen this over and over again recently. The GOP comes up with some line, they try it and it flops. But they can't ever acknowledge that the line was no good so they blame someone else for the flop (often the "liberal media") and they try it again. Even if it flops again, they will try it over and over, and they will continue trying it even when it becomes clear that the line is becoming a liability.

Remember the "you didn't build that"? Republicans thought that was an acknowledgment by the president of what he really thinks. They largely thought that because Fox News and the rest of the rightwing echo chamber only played them the clip of that one line, and not the entire speech in which it was pretty clear that the President did not mean what they said he meant. To people within the wingnutoverse "you didn't build that" was an awesome slam dunk for their 2012 presidential campaign. They even made it the centerpiece of the 2012 Republican National Convention. To the rest of the world, who had a media source that played the clip in context, it just looked intellectually dishonest and desperate. But they kept going with it anyway, even when it was clear that it wasn't working.

In fact, Benghazi!tm itself is another example of this phenomenon. the very first time the attack was used for political purposes was on the day it occurred, on September 11, 2012. When Mitt Romney first brought it up, it blew up in his face. Romney was panned for using a tragedy on a particularly hallowed day to make a crass political point. Still, he didn't give up. He shifted his criticism of Obama about the attack a bit. While initially it was that Obama's response constituted "apologizing for America" that later evolved into a claim that Obama refused to call it "terrorism." That claim famously backfired on Romney during the Presidential debate. That still did not put an end to Benghazi!tm as a stupid scandal. Over the years the right has continued to push it no matter how many times fails to work. They didn't give up even when the CIA demolished their "stand down" theory. They didn't give up even when their investigation revealed that Susan Rice's talking points were altered by the CIA, not the White House. These days, the "scandal", such as it is, isn't even about the 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate anymore, it is more about what the server that Hillary Clinton used to store her emails.

Benghazi!tm has already should have died many times over. But it won't ever end. The Republicans will keep flogging Benghazi!tm simply because they don't know how to stop. To stop would be an admission that the fake scandal they poured their hearts into makes no sense to anyone outside of their movement. It's simply not something they are able to do.