CBS's Major Garrett told viewers last night something news consumers don't usually see or hear: House Republicans gave journalists bogus information, apparently on purpose, in the hopes of advancing the right's version of the Benghazi story.
So here's what happened. Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then, riding high after last week's Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad. Apparently they figured it was a twofer: they could stick a shiv into the belly of the White House and they could then badger them to release the entire email chain, knowing they never would.
But it was typical GOP overreach. To their surprise, the White House took Republicans up on their demand to make the entire email chain public, thus making it clear to the press that they had been burned. And now reporters are letting us all know who was behind it.
This has always been the Republican Party's biggest risk with this stuff: that they don't know when to quit. On Benghazi, when it became obvious that they didn't have a smoking gun, they got desperate and tried to invent one. On the IRS, their problem is that Democrats are as outraged as they are. This will force them to make ever more outrageous accusations in an effort to find some way to draw a contrast. And on the AP phone records, they have to continually dance around the fact that they basically approve of subpoenas like this.
A sane party would take a deep breath and decide to move on to other things. But the tea partiers have the scent of blood now, and it's driving them crazy. Thus the spectacle of Michele Bachmann suggesting today that it's time to start impeachment proceedings.
The GOP's adults can't keep their lunatic fringe on a leash, which means it's only a matter of time until they make fools of themselves on all three of the pseudoscandals that are currently lighting up the airwaves. The Republicans have met the enemy, and it is them.
So, Republicans lied. Flat out lied.
What's remarkable, however, is the muteness about this fact. If Democrats had fed something like this to the press and were found out we'd have seen at least 100 Republican Congressman on TV already using the opening to describe their opponents as unreliable and willing to do anything to win. They'd have explained that the entire Benghazi affair was nothing more than the leaked e-mails writ large — where their political opponents were twisting the truth and presenting misleading information in the hope that something will stick with the public. That they were more concerned with undermining the President and hurting Hillary than in governing. They might even make it a consistent meta-narrative over a period of months calling back to all the other times Republicans had distorted facts to mislead.
Obama? Congressional Dems? They let the media do their heavy lifting, as if they're somehow above the fray. It's infuriating.