The I-Word

The Benghazi Hearing

05.09.13 5:00 PM ET

It would be too dismissive to say that nothing of interest or importance happened at yesterday's Benghazi hearing. But what I can see from reading around suggests to me that the only potentially useful stuff the Republicans got out of it can be turned into ammo to be used against Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton.

Gregory Hicks is the new hero of the right and is, I think, a case in point. His heaviest allegations were two: one, that he begged the military to do something the night of the attack and it did not; two, that he was later silenced and demoted. The first matter is a Pentagon matter, and thus by extension an administration/Obama one, while the second one is about Cheryl Mills and Clinton. But are the American people going to care that much what happened to a guy they've never heard of?

It would depend to some extent on the circumstances, and we don't know those fully. But it's not exactly a pressing matter of state. Whereas the question of why no help arrived on the night of the attack is one Americans might more readily be interested in. The Pentagon has said there's no way any reinforcements could have arrived on time. Michael Hirsh wrote it up this way at the Atlantic:

The administration's response has been that Hicks, a diplomat, is no expert in military capabilities, and his allegations have already been directly rebutted by both Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Joint Chiefs chairman, and former Defense Sec. Leon Panetta. Dempsey testified in February that it would have taken "up to 20 hours or so" to get F-16s to the site, and he called them "the wrong tool for the job." Panetta testified that "the bottom line" is that "we were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault, which could have been brought to an end by a U.S. military response, very simply, although we had forces deployed to the region. Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response."

The general press line on these hearings has been that the target is Hillary, and that's certainly true, although yesterday didn't really do much to singe her that I could see. But there's a back-up plan, which is, well, if we can't nail Hillary, maybe we can raise enough questions about the administration to gin up some phony impeachment hearings. So I expect to see more energy at this point go into trying to discredit Dempsey and Panetta and pin something on Obama.

Personally, I will be shocked if we get to January 20, 2017 without having had some kind of impeachment hearings in the House. It's simply not in the GOP's nature not to do it. Their base will demand it at some point, especially if they're mad about other things--for example, if immigration reform passes, GOP legislators will hear some anger from the base and may feel more inclined to try to placate it.