The real reason for the Michael Cohen hearing

High-profile congressional hearings are show business, and this one was no exception. It bears comparison with the highly politicized hearings that a Republican-controlled Congress held during the Obama administration, looking into such matters as arms sales to Mexican drug cartels as part of a botched sting strategy by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (Operation Fast and Furious) and conflicting State Department claims about the circumstances of the 2012 attack by Islamist militants on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The latter saw Republicans in 2015 call the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The political significance of the hearing was obvious.

But Benghazi and Fast and Furious were real policy scandals involving life-or-death matters. The Cohen hearing, by contrast, was little more than an opportunity for scattershot attacks on the president and his business dealings. It was hardly a focused investigation into Russian collusion, supposedly the central concern of the president’s critics. It was seven hours of innuendo, speculation and largely unsupported allegations about wrongdoing and offensive behavior of whatever sort Mr. Cohen or his congressional interlocutors cared to bring up.