Author's note: Due to the abrupt change of circumstances in the last 48 hours, this article has been updated.
Kevin McCarthy was riding high. Despite some opposition, he was the hands down favorite to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House. In so doing, he would have been third in line to the Presidency. Then, he accidentally spoke the truth:
"What you're going to see is a conservative Speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win. And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable (sic). But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen."
Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that on October 1 when asked about accomplishments of the Republican Congress in an interview on Fox News.
And by October 8, he had to withdraw from the race.
Political commentator Michael Kinsley once said that a political gaffe occurs when a politician accidentally tells the truth. When the man who was favored to be the Republican-elected Speaker of the House spoke truth, he honestly revealed that the rationale for the longest Congressional investigation in American history, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, was created for the purpose of defeating Hillary Clinton in her campaign for President.
Many would say that such Congressional action would qualify as -- or perhaps define -- the abuse of power.
In scanning Congressional history, one is hard-pressed to find a more egregious misuse of power by the Congress. A recent estimate found that over 13 months, the 18 staff members of the Benghazi Select Committee had spent over
$ 3,500,000. These sums do not count the huge expenditures at the State and Defense Departments to find and declassify material requested by the Committee. This is particularly breathtaking when seven Congressional committees and a State Department Accountability Review Board have already done this work.
Our nation is at a point in time when such funds are needed for real spending for real people programs who are in desperate straits -- the housing and education of 2.5 homeless children in our wealthy nation; the refunding of the Zadroga Act which provides federal benefits for the 9/11 first responders and health workers which is scheduled to lapse; or humanitarian assistance to the 11 million people, half of whom are children, displaced by the crisis in Syria.
The visionary minds that drafted the Constitution never expressly authorized either House of Congress to hold investigations or to exact testimony. The power had been frequently exercised by the British Parliament and by the Assemblies of the American Colonies prior to the adoption of the Constitution. It was asserted by the House of Representatives as early as 1792 when it appointed a committee to investigate the defeat of General St. Clair and his army by the Indians in the Northwest and has long since been given credence by the Supreme Court. It was not until the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 that oversight was given explicit recognition in public law.
Congressional investigative hearings are generally held when there is a belief of wrongdoing on the part of a public official, acting in their official capacity, and the objective is generally to explore a legislative remedy. Through history, the most memorable investigations have included queries into the Teapot Dome scandal, Watergate, and Iran-Contra.
Perhaps saddest of all is to learn that the death of four courageous public servants -- Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty -- has been used as a taxpayer-funded sham.
"Eating on the floor of a house under the ground! The food was an interesting barley paste, covered with very hot tomato soup. Another adventure in Libya. How are you? C" A wonderful friend of Ambassador Stevens shared this email, in a tribute to him, that he sent to her days before his death.
In withdrawing from the race, McCarthy addressed questions about whether his statement on the Select Committee on Benghazi damaged his candidacy. "Well, that wasn't helpful. I could have said it much better." McCarthy admitted, adding he "should not be a distraction" from the panel finding the "truth." "That's part of the decision as well."
There is huge irony to this matter. But sometimes, no good deed goes unpunished.