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Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Republican Party’s obsession with turning the attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi into a Watergate-level scandal may not have paid any dividends in the 2012 presidential election, but that won’t stop them from trying again in 2016.

Karl Rove’s SuperPAC, American Crossroads, has released an inflammatory attack ad targeting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in what will surely be the first of many misleading attempts to ground Clinton’s hypothetical presidential campaign before it even begins.

The ad, titled simply “Benghazi,” splices together the testimony of former State Department employee Gregory Hicks with Clinton’s testimony in April and various news clips, to reach the completely unsubstantiated claim that Clinton participated in a “cover-up.”

The ad, which is just the latest example of the GOP’s decades-long pattern of scandal-trolling the former First Lady, provides a clear template for the attacks that will be leveled against Clinton if she does choose to seek the White House in 2016.

It is also deeply misleading, presenting a long list of half-truths and baseless speculation as rock-solid evidence that Clinton is engaged in a cover-up (though what, exactly, she supposedly hoped to gain from her obfuscation remains unspecified.)

Whether the “Benghazi cover-up” line of attack will actually damage Clinton’s status as the overwhelming front-runner to succeed President Barack Obama remains unclear. Republicans tried the same line of attack against Obama — starting with Mitt Romney’s universally-panned statement just hours after the attacks, and continuing with weeks of similarly overheated rhetoric — only to see the president easily re-elected. Adding insult to injury, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate in three decades to out-poll his Republican opponent on foreign policy — a feat that he presumably could not have pulled off if the Benghazi hysteria had made an impact with voters.

Furthermore, American Crossroads’ pathetic 1.29 percent return on investment on its $103,559,672 of political spending in the 2012 campaign casts serious doubt on its ability to drive the narrative in the next election.

So while the right wing can — and almost certainly will — continue trying to turn Benghazi into the scandal that keeps Hillary Clinton out of the White House, in reality their effort seems just as likely to fail as Fast & Furious, Solyndra, and all of the other manufactured “scandals” that came before it.

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