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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Republicans hope to make Pres. Obama into Nixon; they may wind up with Bill Clinton

The Fix, Washington Post: You could forgive Republicans for thinking they had happened upon an electoral golden goose over the past five days.

The twin investigations into the IRS’s flagging of tax-exempt status applications for conservative groups and the secret seizure of reporters’ phone records by the Justice Department, as well as the ongoing GOP drumbeat regarding the terrorist attack last fall in Benghazi, Libya, have thrust the Obama administration (and the Democratic party) into a defensive crouch. It’s a rare moment since President Obama’s reelection last fall when the GOP can play offense.

And yet, there are real concerns within the Republican establishment that members of their party won’t look before they leap when it comes to the right strategic path forward, taking a major political opportunity and blowing it, à la the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s.

“Republicans need only remember 1998 when they overplayed Monica Lewinsky and turned a promising midterm into almost losing the House,” said former Virginia congressman Tom Davis (R). “The Republicans have a political buffet in front of them. No need to gorge themselves…. [They] need to pace themselves.”

There is already some evidence that Republicans in Congress aren’t heeding Davis’s advice. “Of all the great cover-ups in history — the Pentagon papers, the Iran-Contra, Watergate and all the rest of them — this … is going to go down as the most serious, the most egregious cover-up in American history,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said during an appearance on a radio show regarding Benghazi. “People may be starting to use the I-word before too long,” Inhofe added.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) also has raised the possibility of impeachment on Benghazi but has insisted that’s not his goal.
The problem is that Republicans have invested so much hope and hype in Benghazi that it’s really hard to drop it like the dead thing that it is. Even if Washington Republicans accepted reality and tried to let their Benghazi conspiracy theory die quietly, the wingnut media would take up the cause and continue to make it an issue. Republicans will have to keep beating this dead horse for a while, in order to stave off accusations from the base of “caving” on the Greatest Scandal in American History(tm).

But the rest of the public doesn’t feel the same way that Republican voters do — which isn’t really much of a surprise, they never do. And while the base is howling for blood, the average voter just wishes this circus would end. The result: political grandstanding that’s painfully obvious to everyone other than the very people who would keep it going. Having started this bandwagon in order to help Mitt Romney get elected, they’re finding that — in their rush to get it on the road — they forgot to include brakes. Benghazi hysteria is like a runaway train, hurtling toward disaster, with the Obama administration waving farewell from the station.

Every nutjob who wants to win a GOP primary will be wall-to-wall Benghazi, 24/7. Meanwhile, general election voters see it as a blatantly political timewaster. Benghazi will win them primaries, but voters in the general will be a lot less enthused with candidates who promise to make Benghazi the central focus of their time in Washington.

[photo by D.B. Blas]

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