Does It Matter Whether House Republicans Saw the Benghazi Emails?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 14 2013 9:27 AM

Does It Matter Whether House Republicans Saw the Benghazi Emails?

On March 19, nearly two months before our latest Benghazi frenzy, members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence were invited to view a trove of information about the communications surrounding the attacks. The briefing was actually delayed; it had been scheduled for February, then pushed back twice. Staffers for House leadership on both sides were invited. As Jonathan Karl reports, John Boehner didn't attend, but his staff did. Here, say Democrats, is evidence that Republicans have had access to all the information they need, while howling that they didn't.

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But that argument makes too many assumptions. Republicans don't want just to see the emails, etc. They want to make public as many of them as they can. (That's a nice instinct.) They also want to repeatedly say they're not getting enough documents. This is sort of Darrell Issa's speciality—the Fast and Furious scandal was elevated because Issa was never getting access to enough documents. New headlines were written whenever the feds supplied his committee with pick-a-huge-number piles of documents. In order for there to be a drip-drip of scandal, something needs to be dripping.

The White House gets this. You get the sense that it doesn't take Issa seriously. Yes, it took the threat of a GOP oversight committee seriously enough to staff up its com shop and push back whenever Issa walked into the Greta Van Susteren green room. But its approach to Issa amounts to high-volume guffawing—the guy is always digging, and he's never found anything. He's supposed to be Dan Burton 2.0.

The first poll numbers since last week's hearing give the White House solace. Even something like the Saturday Night Live cold open soothes them—the show portrayed Issa as a showboat, looking for media attention, bringing Jodi Arias to testify because it would boost ratings for the hearing. It fed right into a ballet of mutal contempt.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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