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Much ado about an election three years away
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Much ado about an election three years away

It seems all we’re hearing from the political mavens these days is how Hillary Clinton is not only the inevitable 2016 Democratic nominee, but a shoo-in as the next president.

That may be good news to Jewish Democrats — Clinton remains a popular figure among Jewish voters despite virulent efforts on the far right to portray her as anti-Israel. But it is already producing mudslinging that may set new records for political shmutz.

Republican leaders are trying awfully (take that word both ways) to show the former secretary of state is behind a sinister cover-up of the Benghazi attacks that killed the American ambassador and three others last Sept. 11.

If Republicans really wanted information they wouldn’t be fabricating evidence. ABC’s Jonathan Karl went on the air with an “exclusive” report last week claiming he had “obtained” the administration’s Benghazi talking point e-mails, which he said revealed “exclusive input from the State Department.” When the real e-mails were released and had no State Department fingerprints, Karl admitted he hadn’t actually seen the originals but had relied on an unnamed source, apparently a Hill GOP figure.

Rep. Darryl Issa (R-Calif.) is the point man in the Trash Hillary campaign. This is the guy who seems to think that Hillary had to have personally read and been responsible for every missive that went out over her signature, despite the fact that every single cable out of the State Department for two centuries has borne the name of the secretary of state.

Anthony Clark, a former Democratic staffer on Issa’s House oversight committee, said over nearly four years he learned, “If Darrell Issa says something — based on the record, his statements and my personal observations of him up-close — there is a strong likelihood it will be baseless and easily disproven.” He called the chair a bully who “counts on his opponents to back down” and makes “outrageous, unsubstantiated claims” followed by bluster.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank said “despite Issa’s incautious promise” of material “damaging” to Hillary, his star witness in the probe of the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack “didn’t lay a glove” on her.

“Our goal in this investigation is to get answers,” Issa said in opening remarks. What he really means is, “Our goal in this investigation is to get Hillary.”

That’s not to say that the Benghazi incident doesn’t deserve a full airing before the congressional oversight committee, but one can’t help question the real intentions of the investigation when it turns out to have been conducted by Republican staffers and that opposition Democrats were intentionally excluded.

You can ignore all that talk from Republicans that Benghazi is a scandal worse than the Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Plame scandals of earlier Republican administrations. Editorial cartoonist Clay Bennett had them pegged when he drew a Fox News reporter in front of the White House saying, “This is the biggest cover-up since the president’s birth certificate.”

The big scandal is Republicans accusing Clinton of denying necessary protection for diplomatic personnel after they themselves had voted earlier to cut funding requested by the State Department for diplomatic security.

One of those voting to cut nearly $300 million from embassy security was Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who now is talking about impeaching Obama for not doing enough to protect the Benghazi mission and trying to cover that up.

Benghazi is not a scandal, but it is “a mess — a small mess,” noted David Corn of Mother Jones, and “no mess is too tiny for scandalmongers in need of material.”

What Republicans are really after is undermining a potential Hillary presidential run. Karl Rove’s Super PAC has already begun airing anti-Hillary ads and there are a lot more to come.

Rather than weaken Clinton, the Republican attacks could backfire and make her a stronger and more sympathetic candidate.

I’m not one of those who believe she’s got a lock on the 2016 nomination. In fact, I’m not even convinced she wants it. But if I had to bet, I’d say she’s leaning in that direction and getting a lot of encouragement.

But inevitable?

We heard the same thing back in 2007 when she was the junior senator from New York. She had the popularity, the organization, the money, and she had Bill. But she ran a poor campaign in 2008, blowing a 30-point lead, 100 percent name recognition, and enormous funding. She lost to an obscure junior senator from Illinois who virtually no one had even heard of eight years earlier. Hillary may seem like she’s sucking all the oxygen out of the upcoming presidential sweepstakes, leaving possible competitors like Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, and Martin O’Malley in her dust, but if a month is a lifetime in politics, what’s three years?

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