The New HillaryGate

Today is another big Benghazi! day in the House, and Republicans are lucky to have picked a day when actual political news–other than Mark Sanford’s victory in South Carolina–is very sparse. And so they’ll get maximum attention–understanding that there is a fairly low ceiling on efforts to flog a “scandal” that’s so long in the tooth and so intensely over-exposed–for their testimony from so-called “whistle-blowers” and a couple of parents of the Americans slain in Benghazi.

Republicans say today’s hearings are an effort to “get to the bottom” of the events before, during and after Benghazi. A lot of liberal observers say it’s just another closed-circuit dialogue between GOP Members of Congress and their conservative “base,” which is ever-hungry for evidence the Obama administration is deliberately sacrificing Americans to its traitorous, morally-relativistic coddling of the Real Enemy, Muslims.

But one thing that everyone ought to be able to agree on is that the latest Benghazi push is aimed at putting Hillary Clinton in the bullseye and doing something about her dangerous popularity. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of VA nailed it in a quote appearing in The Hill today:

“The meta message that they’re trying to get out there is that this is a failure in judgment that goes to character,” Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior Democrat on the Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels, told The Hill. “It didn’t work with Obama, so [they’re hoping that] maybe it’ll stick to Clinton.

“They’re trying to bring her numbers down. That’s what this is all about.”

Bingo. Recent polls have shown Clinton trouncing various Republicans in 2016 trial heats. Worse yet, they’ve shown her winning double-digit Republican support against all comers, and gaining positive job approval ratings from nearly a quarter of Republicans. That has to change, Republican pols believe, and even if most Democrats and independents have tuned out the Benghazi! show, they have the power to take down HRC a few pegs among their own rank-and-file, and then claim she’s “losing support” nationally.

The ultimate goal, I suppose, is to aim at bringing conservative perceptions of HRC back to when they were in 2007 or 1997, when she was still Bill Clinton’s Red Queen and the beating heart of secular-socialist radicalism (in other words, when Barack Obama hadn’t come into focus as America’s Enemy). In that Long Game, today’s hearings are an important moment.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.