Washington’s need for periodic scandal is almost biological. For legislators, it’s an opportunity to strut on the national stage. For the party out of power, it is politics by other means. For the press, it’s an escape from the boredom and frustration of a second term. Scandal means a break in the routine, a thrilling emergency. At some level, the whole political class loves it.
Which is not to say that scandal is never real. Watergate was real. The Whitewater affair was not real but managed to be quite damaging to the Clinton administration anyway. Iran-Contra was real, but not damaging enough to turn Republicans out of office in 1988. Plamegate, which began with the question of who leaked the name of a clandestine CIA agent to a reporter, wasn’t real or damaging, though it did result in Dick Cheney and George W. Bush not speaking anymore.
What a scandal needs to count as real is an underlying crime. What it needs to be damaging is a strong story line. The Benghazi business falls short on both counts. This investigation posits that the top administration officials conspired to hide the truth about the September attack on an American consulate that resulted in the death of four diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Republican accusations about Benghazi derailed the nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.