Hillary Clinton and Trey Gowdy. (AFP photo/Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

After two years and $7 million spent, House Republicans’ Select Committee on Benghazi finally released its report today, and there’s only one thing to say in response: Mission Accomplished, fellas.

It’s true that they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal, which was to find the proof that Hillary Clinton did something so vile, so shocking, so unspeakable that no one could possibly vote to make her president of the United States. But short of that, Republicans got exactly what they wanted out of this committee, which, as you’ll recall, was organized after seven other investigations (most of which were also run by Republicans) failed to provide a satisfactory indictment of Clinton.

Will it lead to a new understanding of how to protect American personnel operating in volatile areas of the world? Maybe, but nobody can say with a straight face that that’s what it was ever about.

The report has little in the way of emphatic conclusions and no major new revelations. It paints a picture of failures across many agencies failures — failures of intelligence, failures of preparation, failures of communication and coordination. It doesn’t, however, say that if any one person or agency had made a different set of decisions as the 2012 attack on American facilities was in progress, then the lives of those four Americans could have been saved. Nor does it uncover any real malfeasance on anyone’s part. As the Post’s Karen DeYoung describes it:

While it contains voluminous additional details of what happened before, during and after the attacks on State Department and CIA compounds in Benghazi, the report’s overall narrative does not substantively differ from previous investigations and numerous news accounts over the years.

So considered as a non-scandal milked for every last ounce of political advantage that could be squeezed out of it, Benghazi now stands second only to Whitewater in contemporary history. And the parallels with Whitewater are indeed striking. Whitewater began as a failed land deal in which, it would eventually become clear, Bill and Hillary lost some money but never did anything criminal, as their pursuers had hoped to find. Benghazi began as an awful attack on American personnel for which, it would eventually become clear, Hillary Clinton bears ultimate responsibility as Secretary of State but never did anything criminal, as her pursuers had hoped to find.

Along the way of the Whitewater investigation, the Clintons’ own Inspector Javert, Ken Starr, discovered that Bill Clinton had been having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Running down every prurient detail of that affair then became the focus of his investigation, and Republicans positively vibrated with ecstasy at the thought of impeaching the president they hated so much. Along the way of the Benghazi investigation, Trey Gowdy discovered that while at the State Department,  Hillary Clinton used a private email server instead of the department’s system; Republicans were similarly aroused by the possibility that the email issue could be used to bring her down once and for all. Just as Bill’s affair with Monica was sordid but not an impeachable offense, Clinton’s decision to use private email was foolish and a violation of State Department policy, but not a crime (though we don’t yet have the final word on that from the FBI’s investigation).

Nevertheless, Benghazi long ago did its job, bringing down Clinton’s favorability ratings and spreading the idea that she’s untrustworthy, even if people don’t quite know what it was that she did wrong. They won’t find anything to help them in the Republicans’ report, which talks a lot about failures of security and coordination, but contains no revelations about wrongdoing on Clinton’s part. And don’t think they didn’t do everything they could to find them.

The report does, however, spend an extraordinary amount of time (almost 100 pages) on the administration’s public reaction to the Benghazi attack: who spoke to whom, who suggested what might be included in talking points, who said what on television and why. From all that granular analysis we learn — and you might want to sit down for this, lest you keel over in shock — that when dramatic events occur, the administration will attempt to make itself look as good as possible. It will spin. It will say that even if something terrible just happened, that doesn’t mean that its basic policies are in error. People inside the administration will coordinate their message to make sure they’re all saying the same thing. People whose job it is to deal with the press will discuss how they should deal with the press when discussing the issue.

If you haven’t fainted dead away at those earth-shattering revelations, you might ask what the point of all this was, if after this spectacularly lengthy and expensive investigation we didn’t actually learn much that we didn’t already know, other than some details here and there.

But ah, the emails. That we got. And that gives Republican officials and voters something they can hang their visceral loathing of Hillary Clinton on. Even those who long ago gave up hope in the absurd conspiracy theories swirling around Benghazi (like the idea that Clinton issued a “stand down” order that directly led to the four deaths) now say that it’s the email server that demonstrates the true depths of her villainy. “She oughta be in jail! Because, you know, that email thing!” they say (and Donald Trump says it too), which sounds a lot more like a substantive critique than “God I just hate that b-tch.”

Over on Fox News, they’re characterizing this report as a hundred-megaton bombshell of damaging revelations about Clinton. I’m sure that this afternoon all the conservative radio hosts will be singing the same tune. The fact that it didn’t actually find anything new about Benghazi to pin on Clinton isn’t at all important. As a political tool, which it was from the moment John Boehner created the select committee, it has amply served its purpose.