On Wednesday, Democrats deigned to join Republicans on the House Select Committee investigating Benghazi, primarily to protect Hillary Clinton’s reputation in particular, and the Obama administration's in general. Toward that end they will likely do what they always do whenever their party is threatened: denigrate the investigation as it unfolds and obstruct it as much as possible.
Thus, it was completely unsurprising that even as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appointed five colleagues to the panel she dismissed the need for it. "The Republican obsession with Benghazi has not been about the victims, the families or the country,” she insisted, adding that it is "not necessary" to participate in a "partisan exercise once again.”
So why participate at all? A Politico story reveals the reason for the Democrats' sudden change of heart. According to "sources familiar with the conversations,” Hillary Clinton informed several House Democrats and aides that she preferred that they participate rather than leave her open to unanswered “enemy fire” from House Republicans. “Republicans are making it clear they plan to use the power of the Benghazi Select Committee to continue to politicize the tragedy that occurred in Benghazi, which is exactly why Democratic participation in the committee is vital,” a Democrat close to Clinton contended. “Inevitably, witnesses ranging from Secretary Clinton to Secretary Kerry will be subpoenaed to testify, and the Democrats appointed to the committee will help restore a level of sanity to the hearings, which would otherwise exist solely as a political witch hunt.”
Leading Democrats endeavored to stay “on message.” “The creation of this committee is solely for propaganda, for politics,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). “It’s rather cheap, in my opinion, because after all the other committees held hearings and looked at the issue, and there was nothing there. But Republicans are trying to make a scandal where there is none.” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) noted that “even a kangaroo court would be better off with a defense attorney,” and panel member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) believes "Republicans will attack Hillary Clinton by any means necessary.”
Cummings is the top Democrat on the Committee that also includes Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee; Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA); Ways and Means Committee member Linda Sanchez (D-CA); and Armed Services Committee member Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Cummings insisted he decided to participate because we've "seen firsthand how abusive the Republicans have been during this investigation” and because Congress owes it to the families of the victims "to bring some minimal level of balance to this process and check false claims wherever they may arise.”
Perhaps they could start with Nancy Pelosi. Even as John Boehner (R-OH) announced the formation of a select committee, Pelosi claimed that family members of the slain Americans asked her not to launch another investigation. "Two of their families have called us and said, 'Please don't take us down this path again,'" Pelosi said during a weekly press conference. "It's really hard for them. It's very sad.” Rep. Louise Slaughter's (D-NY) office also insisted that a family member from the maternal side of Tyrone Woods’ family ostensibly agreed with Pelosi. Tellingly, none of the family members were named.
On the other side of the equation, Pat Smith, and Charles Woods, parents of slain diplomat Sean Smith and Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, respectively, expressed a clear and unambiguous desire to move forward and get to the truth behind the slaughter of their children.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who will be chairing the Committee, appears to be a man determined to ferret out that truth. Ten days ago in a devastatingly effective putdown of the mainstream media, the man who spent six years as a federal prosecutor handling cases that included drug trafficking rings, bank robberies, and child pornography cases, indicated he will bring that experience to the investigation. After quoting Obama’s promise to bring the perpetrators of the Benghazi murders to justice (though no one has even been arrested to this point), he laid out a series of unanswered questions that should embarrass any members of the media who consider themselves investigative journalists. They included the following:
--Do you know why requests for additional security were denied? Do you know why an ambassador asking for more security, days and weeks before he was murdered and those requests went unheeded? Do you know the answer to why those requests went unheeded?
--Do you know why no assets were deployed during the siege? And I’ve heard the explanation, which defies logic, frankly, that we could not have gotten there in time. But you know they didn’t know when it was going to end, so how can you possibly cite that as an excuse?
--Do you know whether the president called any of our allies and said, can you help, we have men under attack? Can you answer that?
--Do any of you know why Susan Rice was picked [to go on five Sunday talk shows after the attacks]? The Secretary of State [Hillary Clinton] did not go. She says she doesn’t like Sunday talk shows. That’s the only media venue she does not like, if that’s true.
--Do you know the origin of this mythology, that it was spawned as a spontaneous reaction to a video? Do you know where that started?
These and other equally probing questions severely undercut the contention by Pelosi and her fellow Democrats that everything about what happened in Benghazi is already known. This was the position still taken on Tuesday by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). “The pertinent questions have been asked and answered again,” he insisted.
Joining Gowdy on the Republican side of the Committee are Reps. Martha Roby (R-AL), House Armed Services Committee member; House Intelligence Committee member Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA); House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Jim Jordan (R-OH); Mike Pompeo (R-KS); Boehner confidante Peter Roskam (R-IL); and Susan Brooks (R-IN).
In contrast to Democratic hysteria, Gowdy maintained that the Committee members selected by Pelosi were "great picks.” “The ones that I know well are very thoughtful and very smart, and I have a great working relationship with them,” Gowdy added. He declined to offer any specifics on the nature of the hearings, noting that closed depositions tend to elicit more information from witnesses, while open hearings allow the public to decide who is more truthful. When asked which method (or both) would apply to Hillary Clinton, Gowdy refused to answer. “I’m not foreclosing any avenue of information,” he said.
Hillary Clinton’s reputation remains in the forefront. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) further illuminated that sentiment, insisting his fellow Democrats must prevent the hearings from being “made about one person.” “I think the American public feels that Hillary Clinton did an outstanding job as secretary of state and if Republicans are using Benghazi to blemish her record, I don’t think it will stick,” he contended.
If the public feels that way about Clinton, it stands in stark contrast State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. During an interview, Psaki couldn’t cite a single specific accomplishment attributable to that outstanding job. Nor could Clinton herself when she spoke at the Women of the World Summit in New York City on April 3. “I think we really restored American leadership in the best sense,” she generalized.
Perhaps Gowdy and his fellow Republicans will focus on the details of that leadership—or lack thereof—but Democrats are counting on Cummings to blunt any such efforts. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Cummings outlines a three-fold strategy aimed at minimizing damage for Clinton and other members of the Obama administration. The first aspect will be to "figure out exactly what (Republicans) are looking for ... to focus on not who I am up against, but what I am searching for.” The second aspect is to "constantly raise the issues,” followed by an effort to "not allow any untruth to go unchallenged.” Yet even the Huff Post admits that Cummings’ real value to Democrats is his “combativeness.”
Cummings proved that during the IRS hearings when he attempted to turn a hearing where Lois Lerner asserted her right not to testify for the second time into a sideshow after hearing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) adjourned the meeting and cut off Cummings’ mic. Issa did so when it became apparent Lerner would have nothing to say and Cummings refused to voice the question he claimed he wanted to ask. Cummings subsequently accused Issa for “efforts to re-create the Oversight Committee in Joe McCarthy’s image.”
Yet just as damning emails revealed greater Obama administration involvement in the IRS’s efforts to target conservative tax-exempt groups, so too did damning emails reveal the extent to which the administration was willing to go to “tailor" the facts on Benghazi. It was those emails that forced Boehner’s hand on forming a select committee, especially since it took a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch to obtain them.
Nonetheless, Cummings remained reliably obstructionist. “I do not believe a select committee is called for after eight reports, dozens of witness interviews and a review of more than 25,000 pages of documents,” he declared. Whether those documents include the series of 41 documents obtained by Judicial Watch as a result of forcing the administration’s hand in court remains unclear.
Thus the so-called battle lines are drawn. Democrats and their media allies have made sure that their participation will be characterized as an effort to blunt Republican hyper-partisanship, even as they willfully ignore the reality that while the Obama administration’s disinformation campaign has been thoroughly shredded, not a single individual has been held accountable. Their other tactic consists of focusing, not on what happened in Benghazi, but how to prevent a reprise of that atrocity. “We hope that we can shine a light on where our focus should be, preventing tragedy like Benghazi from ever happening again.”
Sorry, no sale. The focus should be on what happened, and why it was necessary to cover it up. And if this is the so-called witch hunt Democrats say it is, no doubt they will be more than willing to hear from the 20-30 Benghazi survivors. It’s been almost a year since CNN reported that frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations were being employed to keep them from from talking to the public or Congress. Moreover, it’s utterly absurd that anyone could insist all Benghazi questions have been asked and answered when the Commander-in-Chief has yet to account for his whereabouts that night. Former Secretary of State Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that they spoke to Obama only once during the attack, and Clinton testified she spoke with him at 10 p.m. EST.
Shortly after that phone call the State Department issued the following statement:
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.
It is the commitment to the truth, toxic as it likely is for both Clinton and the Obama administration, that should drive the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
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