Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 8:11 pm | Partly Cloudy 55º


Joe Conason: If Clinton’s Past Scandals Were Tragedy, Her Email Controversy is Surely Farce

With a self-proclaimed socialist running a credible campaign for president, perhaps the time has come to revive Karl Marx's wittiest aphorism — although his pungent quip is relevant to Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders.

At the outset of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, the young revolutionary said Hegel had once observed that "all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

That piercing insight can be applied to the Clinton scandals, now playing again, courtesy of the Congressional Republicans and especially the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., that committee is hardly the first on Capitol Hill to investigate, at great length and expense, a series of vague accusations against Bill and/or Hillary Clinton and/or various staffers and/or associates.

(Indeed, it is the seventh Congressional committee to investigate this particular set of vague accusations concerning the former secretary of state, with none of the earlier probes finding any evidence of wrongdoing by her in the consulate attack on Sept. 11, 2012.)

Back in 1994, just before the Republicans gained control of Congress in the midterm elections, Newt Gingrich gloated that his agenda as speaker of the House would include multiple investigations of the Clinton administration, the president, the first lady and all their friends and associates. He wasn't kidding.

Whitewater? Definitely. Travelgate? Certainly. Filegate? Absolutely. Even those obviously fabricated tales implicating the president in cocaine smuggling at a tiny Arkansas airstrip called Mena? Of course!

While the national press corps treated all those farcical "investigations" as matters of the utmost gravity, even a cursory glance at the underlying facts would have quickly showed that there was nothing to investigate (as Gene Lyons and I explain in considerable detail in our free e-book, The Hunting of Hillary).

Whitewater was a defunct land deal that cost the Clintons about $45,000 and ended long before his election as president. Travelgate was an interoffice dispute of no consequence to anyone, except the traveling press corps that had enjoyed favors from a few White House employees.

Filegate was a complete fake, based on a misreading of a list of former staffers. And no, there was never any evidence that Clinton knew about drug trafficking at Mena, but a presumably sane Republican Congressman from Iowa named Jim Leach pretended to believe it for a while, anyway.

Still these official hoaxes dragged on for months and years, courtesy of the Republican majority and an independent counsel appointed by Republican judges (a position happily eliminated from the statute books when its enabling legislation finally expired).

Their aim was blatantly political, even though nobody in the GOP leadership was stupid enough to brag about driving down Clinton's poll numbers, and they all ended with nothing to show for the millions of taxpayer dollars expended.

In fact, the following midterm elections saw the most prominent figures on the Senate Whitewater Committee — Alfonse D'Amato of New York and Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina — abruptly ousted from their seats.

If Whitewater wasn't quite tragedy, despite the damage inflicted on many innocent people in Arkansas, Benghazi/email is assuredly farce. Not only has Rep. Kevin McCarthy exposed the scam with his juvenile bragging on Fox News Channel, but now a second Republican member, Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., has confirmed that the Benghazi committee was "designed" to "go after ... an individual, Hillary Clinton."

According to The New York Times, the committee's members and staff occupy their time with a "wine club" and a "gun-buying club," while issuing subpoenas to Clinton's friends and associates — and failing to discover anything of consequence about that incident in Benghazi.

Gowdy likes to claim that he uncovered Clinton's use of a private email server — as used by many public officials, including her predecessor Colin Powell — but even that fact, obviously known to many in the Obama administration, had been revealed by a Romanian hacker long before the committee was appointed.

At the first Democratic debate, Sanders turned to Clinton and declared that the American people "are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." Laughing, she agreed.

Nevertheless the damned emails will return Oct. 22 when Clinton appears before the Benghazi committee for a full day in open session to answer the committee's questions and to say a few words about the committee and its masterminds.

As that date approaches, let's hope this partisan burlesque, at the very least, provides a few more laughs before its inevitably ignominious conclusion. We've already spent more than $4 million in tax revenues on its production, and we'll never get that money back.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JoeConason, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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