Hillary Clinton and her fiercest defenders couldn’t have said it better themselves.

Instead, the Republican leading the race to replace John Boehner as House speaker said it for them, boasting Tuesday that his party has spent nearly three years dragging her through investigations of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi in hopes of doing serious damage to her presidential campaign.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.” 

***

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the man Republicans are looking at to be the next Speaker, just handed Hillary Clinton a campaign commercial and gave the left-media their newest talking point. McCarthy actually admitted that the Benghazi committee was designed to hurt Hillary Clinton politically and the left is having a field day.

Never mind that the committee is trying to uncover exactly what happened and what went wrong in Benghazi. McCarthy openly saying this damages that effort. This is the man Republicans want to be Speaker of the House. He is shallow and unprincipled and is showing what an opportunist he is willing to be. Conservatives in the House call him transactional — meaning they think they can do business with him — but at what price?

When Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was Whip, he had a series of high profile fails in whipping for Boehner. Now, as he wants to transition to Speaker, he’s putting his foot in his mouth and undermining the work of the Republican majority.

It’s all downhill from here.

***

Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, downplayed the comments, saying in a statement to RCP that the committee has “nothing to do with politics” and alluding to the investigations into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time leading the State Department, which was revealed as a result of the committee’s work.  

“The Select Committee on Benghazi has always been focused on getting the facts about the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Libya that led to the death of four Americans,” Sparks said. “This was the right thing to do and the Committee has worked judiciously and honestly.  As a result of that work, there are now numerous investigations being conducted – including [by] the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These inquiries have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the consequences of what the former Secretary has done and her confusing, conflicting, and demonstrably false responses.”

***

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) probably didn’t want to spend his final days on the job cleaning up drama caused by his heir apparent. But that’s exactly what he did Thursday when he was forced to issue a statement.

“This investigation has never been about former secretary of state Clinton and never will be,” Boehner said. “The American people deserve the truth about what happened in Benghazi. That’s always been our focus, and that’s going to remain our focus.”

He didn’t mention House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) by name, but he didn’t have to.

***

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said McCarthy should apologize, saying the California Republican made an “absolutely inappropriate statement.”…

Privately, Republicans were outraged by the remarks, saying the House majority leader had given Democrats unfounded ammunition to argue that the committee’s investigation is squarely being driven by politics. Republicans on the committee had tried for months to keep the focus of the inquiry on the administration’s handling of the attacks, avoiding getting into the ins and outs of the various aspects on the email stories…

“I might have said it differently,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, told CNN. “Any ancillary political activity that comes out of it is, in fact, not the goal of the committee and is not what the committee is seeking to do.”

Added Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, “I totally disagree with those comments.” Asked if they could jeopardize his bid for speaker, the conservative Amash said: “I think it should be a concern.”

***

“When you’re in the top leadership post you have to be incredibly cautious about anything that you say,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., one of the rebels who helped push Boehner out. “I’ve heard from a lot of members of the Freedom Caucus who are very concerned about having a leader … that we don’t just go out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

Republican members of the Benghazi committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., were left insisting that notwithstanding what McCarthy said, their aims are unconnected to politics.

“The focus of the Benghazi committee is to get to the truth. Trey has been clear about that, we’ve all been clear about that,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

When asked about McCarthy’s comments, Jordan said: “You can ask Kevin about that. I know what our focus is. I know what I’ve been working on. I know my line of questioning I’ve been working on for Secretary Clinton, and they’re about Benghazi.”

***

Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie told reporters Wednesday he believes most of the credit for the Benghazi investigation should be given to Tom Fitton at Judicial Watch and that the comment “diminishes chairman Gowdy’s work.”

“Everything that I have seen has come from Freedom of Information Act requests that [Fitton] submitted,” Massie said. “Moving beyond that, I think Leader McCarthy needs to re-read the job description of speaker of the House, if he thinks it’s to bring hearings to denigrate Democrats that are running for president.”…

“The Benghazi Committee exists because there should be an analysis of what actually happened and what the response was and if there was a cover-up afterwards,” Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday. “This isn’t to try to damage Hillary Clinton and I don’t quite understand why he said that. That’s the problem with Washington right now. They’re grasping to find something to say that they’ve done something positive. Well first of all, that’s not positive and secondly, that’s not the intent.”

***

McCarthy’s comments come at a critical time for the committee as it prepares to question Clinton next month in a high-profile public hearing. The panel also is expected to interview Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide, behind closed doors. Abedin, considered one of Clinton’s closest confidantes, is expected to testify Oct. 16, six days before Clinton. 

Republicans have questioned Abedin’s jobs at a private consulting firm and the private Clinton Foundation while remaining at the State Department. 

Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, called McCarthy’s comments “a damning display of honesty” by the likely next speaker of the House

***

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is threatening to pull Democratic participation from the select committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks in the wake of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) comments linking the panel to Hillary Clinton’s falling poll numbers…

“It’s just a stunning admission on the part of the Republican leader that the Benghazi Committee was created with a political purpose in mind. In fact, it’s really an ethical question,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “It makes the whole operation practically an unethical operation.”…

“It’s obvious that it should be disbanded based on the leader’s own words. But since we recognize Republicans do not intend to do that I would encourage my members to continue to participate, and then we will see how much longer they want this to go on,” Pelosi said. “How long we will participate depends on how serious they are, and we haven’t seen any signs of seriousness.”

***

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the Benghazi Select Committee, issued the following statement in response to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s admission about the Benghazi Committee’s true purpose:

“This stunning concession from Rep. McCarthy reveals the truth that Republicans never dared admit in public:  the core Republican goal in establishing the Benghazi Committee was always to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and never to conduct an even-handed search for the facts.  It is shameful that Republicans have used this tragedy and the deaths of our fellow Americans for political gain.  Republicans have blatantly abused their authority in Congress by spending more than $4.5 million in taxpayer funds to pay for a political campaign against Hillary Clinton.”

***

The response to the likely House Speaker’s confession was swift and severe. Consider, for example, what Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), a member of the Select Committee on Benghazi, told Rachel on the show last night.

“[T]he committee is a joke and I think Democrats ought to call it what it is and say we`re not going to participate in this anymore.
 
“And that’s my initial reaction – I`ll listen to my leadership on this and perhaps they will again have greater wisdom – but it just has been an embarrassment.”

It’s no idle threat. In light of Kevin McCarthy, the likely next Speaker of the House, admitting what Democrats have long feared, there’s a very real possibility that Dems on the panel may decide to simply walk away from a process that’s been corrupted. If the committee is now nothing more than a taxpayer-funded election tool, some Democrats no longer see the point in participating in a farce.

***

McCarthy was the obvious choice to move up the ladder. He still may be if he can limit the damage.

But the Democrats are smelling blood and may demand McCarthy’s scalp as a price for keeping the Benghazi committee up and running. Democrats on the committee could simply walk away and refuse to participate any more. This would pretty much mean the end of the committee and the end of the Benghazi probe.

***

David Brock, founder of pro-Clinton rapid response group Correct the Record, called on the Benghazi committee Wednesday to immediately suspend the investigation and for an ethics probe to take place. He also called on McCarthy to withdraw from consideration of his speakership in a letter provided to POLITICO.

“You displayed a level of candor not seen in many politicians,” Brock wrote. “However, by admitting — in fact Sir, by bragging — that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is little more than a partisan cudgel intended to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, you have pulled back the curtain on your own party’s abuse of power and misuse of taxpayer funds to advance a nakedly political goal.”…

Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on Thursday called on Boehner to disband the investigation as well.

“The Select Committee on Benghazi has already cost the American tax payers over 4.5 million dollars on what the House Majority Leader has now made clear is nothing more than a political attack against Secretary Clinton,” they wrote in a letter. “This investigation is one of the longest in Congressional history, surpassing the length of the Watergate Committee, the Joint Committee investigating Pearl Harbor, the Warren Commission, and the Iran Contra investigation.”

***

No doubt Republicans will clean up after McCarthy’s comments by insisting that the politics were a side benefit from a necessary investigation. But it would be nice to know more about the House GOP’s internal deliberations as it launched one inquiry into Clinton after another. Did we need another investigation by the select committee headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)? After all, a two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee cleared the military and the CIA of improper behavior in response to the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya…

McCarthy’s statement gave Democrats what they have long sought: a rather strong public hint that this investigation was never on the level. “This stunning concession from Rep. McCarthy reveals the truth that Republicans never dared admit in public,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. “The core Republican goal in establishing the Benghazi committee was always to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and never to conduct an evenhanded search for the facts.” Clinton’s defenders hope McCarthy’s statement might prod the media to pay attention to the current behavior of the accusers and not just the past behavior of the accused.

***

If the Republicans on the committee are going to look like they’re on a partisan witch hunt that exploits the deaths of four Americans for political gain, then it will almost surely backfire on them. But if this is true, isn’t it also true that those attempting to bury an investigation surrounding the very same tragedy in hopes of insulating a preordained presidential candidate are equally distasteful and partisan?

Rarely is this debate framed in that way. Writers at left-wing and mainstream publications often operate under the misconception that their interpretations are apolitical. So we can forgive them for periodically forgetting, even as evidence mounts (sometimes in their own publications) that Clinton was involved in shady activities, that partisanship originates from both sides.

Every reporter covering this story knows well that the indignation over McCarthy’s remarks is nothing more than dissembling. It reminds me of the Planned Parenthood video kerfuffle that’s going on with Carly Fiorina. The best way to evade an interrogation —whether we’re talking about videos or servers—is to divert attention and blow a piddling inconsistency out of proportion, or nitpick and parse a supposed gaffe enough to discredit the entire case. Question the motivation and honesty of your accusers and you might never have to answer a real question…

It doesn’t really matter if party allegiance propels inquiry, as long as that inquiry is meaningful. In theory, one of the most valuable features of a two-party political system is that one will check the other—whether we’re talking about ideology or abuse of power.

***

***

***