House GOP Looks to Regroup After McCarthy Benghazi Comments

“Every­body thought Hil­lary Clin­ton was un­beat­able, right? But we put to­geth­er a Benghazi spe­cial com­mit­tee…. What are her num­bers today?" McCarthy said. “Every­body thought Hil­lary Clin­ton was un­beat­able, right? But we put to­geth­er a Benghazi spe­cial com­mit­tee…. What are her num­bers today?" McCarthy said. Chris Carlson/AP

House Re­pub­lic­ans are seek­ing to con­tain the dam­age from com­ments by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy that cred­ited the Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi with dam­aging Hil­lary Clin­ton’s poll num­bers.

The widely-cir­cu­lated com­ments Tues­day night by Mc­Carthy, who is run­ning for House speak­er, were out of step with Re­pub­lic­ans’ long-stand­ing in­sist­ence that the pan­el in­vest­ig­at­ing the fatal 2012 Benghazi at­tacks isn’t a polit­ic­al weapon against Clin­ton’s White House run.

Mul­tiple Re­pub­lic­ans sought to cast Mc­Carthy’s com­ments as in­art­ful, but hardly proof that the pan­el’s mo­tiv­a­tions are polit­ic­al.

The pan­el’s de­mands for Clin­ton’s State De­part­ment cor­res­pond­ence led to the rev­el­a­tion of her private email sys­tem, a con­tro­versy that’s now dog­ging her pres­id­en­tial cam­paign.

Rep. Lynn West­mo­re­land, a mem­ber of the Benghazi pan­el, said he has spoken with Mc­Carthy and that the ma­jor­ity lead­er “feels ter­rible that he made that un­forced er­ror.

“I think what Kev­in was try­ing to do is give an ex­ample of what a se­lect com­mit­tee could do as far as un­cov­er­ing new in­form­a­tion,” West­mo­re­land told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

“I am sure he was sickened at it, and real­ized that he had said something in er­ror, but in real­ity what he meant was the truth: that the se­lect com­mit­tee un­covered the private serv­er,” he said.

Said GOP Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn: “Some­times things roll off our tongues in a man­ner that we may not have ex­pec­ted or in­ten­ded for them to.

“What [Mc­Carthy] was try­ing to po­s­i­tion was that when you do the right thing, and you are tend­ing to the busi­ness at hand and hand­ling your due di­li­gence in the ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner, then it is go­ing to serve your in­vest­ig­a­tion or your com­mit­tee work … well,” Black­burn said, not­ing that “Hil­lary Clin­ton can blame no one but her­self.”

Speak­ing on Fox News late Tues­day night, Mc­Carthy told Sean Han­nity, “Every­body thought Hil­lary Clin­ton was un­beat­able, right? But we put to­geth­er a Benghazi spe­cial com­mit­tee…. What are her num­bers today?

“Her num­bers are drop­ping. Why? Be­cause she is un­trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that hap­pen,” Mc­Carthy said.

Many Demo­crats in both cham­bers and Demo­crat­ic polit­ic­al op­er­at­ives have pounced on the com­ments over the last two days. Harry Re­id, the Sen­ate’s top Demo­crat, and sev­er­al oth­er seni­or Demo­crats have called on House Re­pub­lic­ans to dis­band the pan­el es­tab­lished last year.

“Re­pub­lic­ans have taken a na­tion­al tragedy and turned it in­to the cheapest polit­ic­al farce ima­gin­able,” Re­id said Thursday. Steny Hoy­er, the No. 2 House Demo­crat, called Mc­Carthy’s com­ments “both dis­turb­ing and rev­el­at­ory” and said that it’s “time to end this polit­ic­al charade and turn the lights out on the Benghazi Com­mit­tee.”

But Re­pub­lic­ans want to steer the fo­cus away from Mc­Carthy and back where they think it be­longs—on pos­sible in­com­pet­ence or wrong­do­ing by Clin­ton and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Out­go­ing House Speak­er John Boehner, in a state­ment Thursday, sought to tamp down on the cri­ti­cism that’s swirl­ing ahead of the House GOP’s lead­er­ship elec­tions next week. “This in­vest­ig­a­tion has nev­er been about former Sec­ret­ary of State Clin­ton and nev­er will be,” Boehner said in re­sponse to Demo­crats’ calls to dis­band the pan­el.

“In­deed, the Se­lect Com­mit­tee’s very ex­ist­ence is only the res­ult of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ob­struc­tion of routine con­gres­sion­al in­vest­ig­a­tions and its fail­ure to prop­erly com­ply with sub­poen­as and doc­u­ment re­quests,” he said.

But Mc­Carthy’s com­ments have irked some Re­pub­lic­ans, too.

House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jason Chaf­fetztold CNN Wed­nes­day that Mc­Carthy should apo­lo­gize, call­ing the re­marks “ab­so­lutely in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

But Rep. Tom Cole, the deputy whip and a long­time in­side play­er in House GOP polit­ics, pre­dicted that the con­tro­versy over Mc­Carthy’s com­ments will blow over quickly.

“It prob­ably wasn’t as art­fully said as it meant to be, but when you are in those po­s­i­tions oc­ca­sion­ally you are go­ing to have a little bit of a verbal mis­hap,” Cole said.

He said the Benghazi pan­el has “demon­strated its vi­ab­il­ity,” and that now the email story is con­tinu­ing be­cause of factors bey­ond just the se­lect com­mit­tee, not­ing the FBI’s on­go­ing probe of the se­cur­ity of Clin­ton’s private email sys­tem.

“I don’t think it makes too much dif­fer­ence,” Cole said of Mc­Carthy’s com­ments.  “I think it is kind of a ripple in the wa­ter today; it will be gone to­mor­row."

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