by Kevin Kelton
For Americans over 19, today’s “Russia-gate” headlines harken back to a bygone era of the 2015 “Benghazi-gate” scandal and a time of hot yoga, iPhone Sixes, John Green novels, and a guy named “Jeb!” captured the hearts of dark money donors everywhere.
Hard as it is to believe, it’s been almost two years since the email scandal and “Benghazi” hearings that so closely echo the Russian election tampering news of today. But for Americans who were born then, the similarities are eery.
(Little known fact: “Benghazi-gate” was named after a city in “Libya,” where the “United States” had an “embassy” that was “burned” to the “ground.”)
Back then, a politician and amateur sorceress named Hillary Clinton was also embroiled in a national scandal over top secret information that was improperly handled. And like today, the investigation and its clusterfuck of colorful characters captured a country’s conscious. [Editor’s Note: the C alliteration is a homage to a time when a (c) marking buried in an email meant you were willfully exposing the nation’s toppest top secrets to a bedridden 400 pound hacker because you hated America.]
At a time when young Americans were protesting in the streets for free college and against the endless war against ISIS, the American media was taken over by the daily drama that played out in real time on cable TV and an early internet application known as Facebook.
The televised hearings introduced Americans to colorful characters like Rep. Trey Gowdy (pronounced “tray”) and Jason “Ol’ Metal Foot” Chaffetz. And our daily lexicon was filled with quaint terms like “home-brewed server” and “c markings” and “c*nt.”
Americans who are old enough to have graduated community college will recall the dramatic hearings in which Clinton, then still thought of as a well-meaning but imperfect public servant and not yet a Marvel Comics villain, would “testify” for hours on end while the her political opponents took every momentary sigh and facial expression as proof of her diabolical intent. Equally memorable was FBI Director and human giant James Comey, the Gary Cooper style sheriff in town who aimed to bring down the infamous Clinton gang. Then there were media darlings Huma “Stand By Your Man” Abedin, the Tammy Wynette of the cyberporn-age, and Attorney Gen. Loretta Lynch, whose tarmac tete-a-tete with Hillary’s hunky hubby turned her into an overnight media sensation, as their illicit runway rendezvous perfectly captured the conflicted sexual morés of the times. (When would-be lovers asked themselves, “Is it romantic interest or conflict of interest?”) “We just talked about our grandkids” became the new double entendre for the “Netflix and chill” generation.
Ultimately, the scandal bearing Benghazi’s name flamed out, as Clinton lost the presidency to real estate mogul Donald Trump, who went on to be impeached, convicted, and a fourth place finisher on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Kevin Kelton is a former writer for “Saturday Night Live” and the co-creator of the “Girlfriend Guy” TV pilot.