Watching the ongoing freakout and paranoid conspiracy-mongering over the Benghazi attack by numerous Republicans and conservatives, the rest of us over in Planet Reality watching this have been scratching our heads wondering what's causing this meltdown. Now, in the cases of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the diagnosis for their behavior is pretty easy to pinpoint (the latter is terrified of a primary challenge in 2014 and thinks picking a fight with the evil Kenyan Muslim Anti-Christ is the ticket to survival, while the former is an angry, bitter, spiteful old bastard who is lashing out any way he can in the hopes of causing damage to "the One" who stole his precious widdle Presidency). But what of the other GOPers, the folks like Limbaugh, Hannity, the folks at Fox News (which should be renamed The All-Benghazi Network these days) and the rest? What is their motivation, besides the obvious one of lashing out in anger after Obama's reelection.
Well, as Paul Waldman explained over at the American Prospect a few days ago, the answer may be quite simple. First he notes the rhetoric from McCain, Graham and company:
But now, some Republicans, particularly John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are essentially saying this horrifying cover-up was quite possibly the greatest crime in the history of the United States government and if we're going to get to the bottom of it nothing short of a slect committee - a "Watergate-style committee," as it is being referred to by reporters - will do. Who knows what it might uncover? Were there CIA whistleblowers whose bodies are now lying at the bottom of the Potomac? Was David Petraeus being blackmailed? Are William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright invovled? Did Susan Rice fly to Tripoli, have a steamy liason with a clone of Ayman al-Zawahari created in a secret underground laboratory, then go to Benghazi where she personally killed Ambassador Chris Stevens with a hat pin? We won't know unless we spin this out into a multi-week story!
Clearly, this rhetoric has nothing to do with reality or the actual facts about Benghazi. So why the hysteria from the GOP? Waldman continues:
So what's going on here? I can sum it up in two words: scandal envy. Republicans are indescribably frustrated by the fact that Barack Obama, whom they regard as both illegitimate and corrupt, went through an entire term without a major scandal. They tried with "Fast and Furious," but that turned out to be small potatoes. They tried with Solyndra, but that didn't produce the criminality they hoped for either. Obama even managed to dole out three-quarters of a trillion dollars in stimulus money without any graft or double-dealing to be found. Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky, and Barack Obama has gotten off scott-free. This is making them absolutely living and they're going to keep trying to gin up a scandal, even if there's no there there. Benghazi may not be an actual scandal, but it's all they have handy.
I couldn't have said it better myself. The GOP and the conservative movement are desperate for something, anything they can use to try and bring down Obama like they tried to do with Clinton. And they have come up completely empty-handed. (It especially must kill them that Obama is a very happily married man, so they can't nail him Lewinsky-style.) And the more desperate they become, the more they grab at anything even remotely resembling a scandal and look more and more ridiculous in the process. Indeed, as Steve Benen pointed out,
Republicans have used the term "Watergate" to describe no less than six
seperate supposed instances of Obama administration malfesence (raning from Benghazi to "Fast and Furious" to the 2010 attempt to woo Joe Sestak out of the PA Senate race) - and all of them have come to nothing. And that's not even counting Donald Trump and the Birthers.
Again, like with Clinton, it all stems from a noxious mix of craziness and stubborn belief. Obama must be a criminal, so he must be doing some kind of illegal activity. Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum made note of Waldman's piece and added a little commentary of his own:
Yep. They're just convinced that Obama runs a gang of Chicago thugs who are lying and cheating behind the scenes at every opportunity. It's a foundational story on the tea-party right. Unfortunately, the reality is that whatever else you think of Obama, he's one of the straightest arrows we've had in the White House since...forever. He runs a tight ship organizationally, and on a personal level he's so intolerant of personal peccadilloes that he sometimes seems almost inhuman. It would be astonishing if he could actually avoid a serious scandal for an entire eight year term, but if anyone can do it, it's probably Obama.
And yes, it's driving Republicans crazy. Even the ones who don't want to impeach him at least want to bring him down to earth a bit. So they latch onto anything they can. It's all starting to seem kind of desperate, but I doubt they're going to let that stop them. After all, it eventually worked against Clinton.
No, I have to agree with Drum, nothing's going to stop them. And yet, they should remember the Clinton years and how their mania to take him down constantly caused them to shoot themselves in the foot and make themselves perhaps Clinton's greatest asset. Returning to Steve Benen again, he has a little advice for the Obama scandal hunters, rooted in a little Aesop fable:
I'd just add one thing to keep in mind going forward: the boy who cried wolf didn't do himself any favors. For Republicans to scream "Watergate!" and set their hair on fire every time there's a hint of a controversy that kinda sorta might involve the administartion, they're undermining their own credibility.
With this in mind, if/when there's a legitimate scandal involving the Obama White House, and Republicans once again go berserk, there will be plenty of folks who simply roll their eyes, tired of the faux outrage and manufactured controversies that never pan out. They'll say, "No, no, this time there really is a wolf," and many will respond, "We've heard it all before."
Act like a conspiracy nut all the time and people will treat you like a conspiracy nut. Words McCain, Graham and their ilk would be wise to heed.