House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is trying to patch discord caused by his Sept. 29 gaffe that has given Democrats a much-sought opportunity to declare the GOP’s investigation into Hillary Clinton is mere partisanship.
“This committee was set up for one sole purpose, to find the truth on behalf of families for four dead Americans,” McCarthy replied in a Fox News interview on Thursday, Oct. 1.
“I did not imply in any way that that [the committee’s investigative] work is political, of course it is not,” McCarthy said.
Democrats are working all-out to put a partisan image on the careful and much-delayed investigation. So far, the inquiry has shown Clinton’s mismanagement before, during and after the lethal September 2012 attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi. It also helped expose an off-the-books email network that she used while Secretary of State, and which was vulnerable to foreign hackers.
Democratic claims of partisanship were triggered by McCarthy’s initial comments, made Tuesday, Sept. 29,
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” he said Tuesday. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought.”
Democrats declared they were shocked over the existence of political motivations in Washington D.C.
“Every American should be outraged by this politically motivated sham,” Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer claimed in a Wednesday letter to outgoing House Speaker John Boehner. “It is time to disband this committee, which is clearly not focused on a tragedy but on a political smear campaign,” said Boxer, who has chaired several Senate investigations that helped Democratic priorities.
The Democrats’ public relations offensive may help them — and their establishment media allies — defend Clinton when she testifies Oct. 22 at the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The committee is chaired by South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy.
On Thursday, McCarthy defended himself and the committee. “That committee is solely to get the truth out, but it happened within the [Benghazi] truth you found out about [Clinton’s private email] server,” he told Fox News.
“This committee’s sole purpose is to find the truth why four Americans were killed that night, and that is the work they have done, that is the hearings they have done, they have been applauded on all sides of the aisle,” he said.
McCarthy’s Sept. 29 gaffe was poorly timed because it distracts from his effort to persuade the GOP caucus to elect him as the new House Speaker before the October departure of outgoing House Speaker John Boehner.
McCarthy’s bid for a quick election to the speakership is being resisted by House conservatives, who fear he and his leadership team will align themselves with business interests rather than the GOP’s ideological base-voters.
“I totally disagree with [McCarthy’s] comments,” said Republican conservative Rep. Justin Amash. The comments “should be a concern” for GOP legislators who are deciding if McCarthy should replace Boehner, he said.
McCarthy’ gaffe “diminishes chairman Gowdy’s work,” said Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie. “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.”
But McCarthy’s comments were criticized by some legislators who likely support his promotion to House Speaker.
“Mr. McCarthy should apologize,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which has conducted part of the multi-year investigation. “I’m very supportive of Kevin McCarthy, but those statements are just absolutely inappropriate,” he said in an MSNBC interview on Thursday.
“That was not the reason we started. We started because there were four dead Americans and we didn’t have answers,” he added.
“I might have said it differently,” said Rep. Daryl Issa, a former committee chairman who helped begin the investigation,
“Any ancillary political activity that comes out of [the investigation] is, in fact, not the goal of the committee and is not what the committee is seeking to do,” Issa added.
Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner also defended his political ally.
“This investigation has never been about former Secretary of State Clinton and never will be… people deserve the truth about what happened in Benghazi. That’s always been our focus, and that’s going to remain our focus,” he said in a statement.
The investigation began amid evidence that President Barack Obama and Clinton make gross strategic and policy errors before, during and after the successful 2012 jihad attack on the poorly guarded U.S. diplomatic compound and on a nearby U.S.building. The assault killed four Americans, and highlighted flaws in Obama’s Middle East strategy. Obama’s administration tried to blame the attack on Arabs’ reaction to a California-produced anti-Islam video.
Even Jeb Bush, the leading establishment candidate in the 2016 race, spoke about McCarthy’s comments. “I don’t quite understand why he said that… first of all, that’s not positive and secondly, that’s not the intent,” Bush said.