The House GOP leadership is botching the Benghazi investigation

Fred J. Eckert Contributor
Font Size:

On Thursday, The Daily Caller published a story — “Despite momentum, GOP leadership still against special Benghazi committee” — that offers new evidence of the accuracy of two assessments long maintained by so many true conservatives:

1) The people who refer to themselves as the House Republican “leadership” are far more interested in their own big egos and little fiefdoms than they are in serving the best interests of the American people and protecting the national security of the United States.

2) When it comes to crafting and implementing political strategy, they are pretty much complete morons.

Most House Republicans — 153 — are co-sponsors of a proposal to establish a select committee to investigate the Benghazi terror attack. Rep. John Boehner and other members of the Republican leadership are pressuring co-sponsors of the proposal to back off.

Of course, they claim not to be. It must be a coincidence, then, that only two days after a May 14 joint meeting of the House Republican whip organization and committee chairs at which the majority whip and a very turf-conscious committee chairman stood up and denounced the idea of having such a select committee, a Republican co-sponsor of the select committee proposal who is next in line for chairmanship of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee — Rep. John Mica of Florida — decided to renounce his co-sponsorship. I guess Mica just suddenly decided, without any pressure to do so, that “it is no longer necessary to pursue a select committee on this matter,” an idea that only eight weeks earlier he had enthusiastically embraced. Mica’s reversal came as an avalanche of highly damaging facts surrounding Benghazi was raining down on the Obama administration. At the time, new co-sponsors for the select committee idea were coming forward at a rate of two to four a day.

Can you believe any of this? Me neither.

The Republican leadership also claims that the smarter, more effective way to uncover the truth about the Benghazi disaster is to have any and all committees that claim any bit of jurisdiction have a go at it.

What’s so wrong about this approach?

To begin with, the driving motive behind it’s wrong — disgustingly wrong. It’s far, far more about a weak speaker of the House’s desire to massage the egos and avoid hurting the feelings of a handful of his committee chairmen than it is about trying to protect the country.

It’s not smart or efficient to let several committees that can claim some chunk of jurisdiction — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Armed Services and Oversight & Government Reform — each go merrily on its own, each restricted to its own narrow scope, wasting time by duplicating effort so that the maximum possible number of chairmen and members can get a chance at some “my-moment-before-the-cameras” speechifying.

Darrell Issa’s committee has done some outstanding work so far. But by House rules, its scope is actually quite limited. Plus, as able a person as Issa is, it defies common sense to expect that he can do justice to Benghazi while his hands are full with the crucially important IRS investigation.

Obsessing over profile and lacking in courage, Boehner and the rest of the so-called “leadership” are, however inadvertently, engaging in conduct akin to complicity in the Obama administration’s long-running cover-up efforts. It’s an inexcusable dereliction of duty that they continue to thwart rather than assist the creation of the select committee that should have been created months ago.

Consider whom Boehner and his leadership group are fighting against:

  • More than 150 of their fellow House Republicans — that’s more than two-thirds of the GOP caucus — are co-sponsoring the resolution.
  • Family members of Americans murdered in the Benghazi terrorist attack back the resolution.
  • The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents 26,000 federal law enforcement officers including Diplomatic Security Service officers, FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, Secret Service agents and Border Patrol agents, has endorsed the resolution, declaring that it’s “imperative” that a select committee be created “immediately.”
  • Special OPS OPSEC, an association of more than 700 retired Special Operations officials, has endorsed the resolution and earlier this week slapped down the pitch by the House Republican leadership that a select committee would amount to a wasteful start-over. “A select committee could pick up the investigation from where it stands and apply the full weight of the House to get the answers we need,” the group said in a statement.

Compare the behavior of the GOP leadership with that of the driving force behind the select committee proposal, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia. Wolf has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t want to chair this committee and isn’t seeking to serve on it — he just wants it to happen. But Boehner and the other members of the GOP leadership are irritated by Wolf. It’s what Mark Twain used to call “the irritation of good example.”

Worse, the House leadership doesn’t understand that they are playing right into the hands of Obama and the left, who will scream about how the GOP has not just one, but five — five! — separate committees trying to make political hay out of Benghazi. That will give the media yet another excuse to focus not on the terrible facts about Benghazi but rather on the administration’s claim that Republicans are just out to milk a great tragedy for political gain.

There are lots of practical problems with the leadership’s preferred approach to investigating Benghazi, besides the obvious ones. For one, the committees would end up fighting over scheduling. Which committee will meet during the best time for TV? How can they make sure that everyone who wants to read his statement before the camera — scores and scores of members — is able to do so? Moreover, all of these committee hearings will make for boring television that no one will watch.

Finally, by insisting on this multi-committee approach, Boehner and Company risk alienating the Diplomatic Defense Service (DSS) officers and other federal law enforcement agents who so far have been reserving most of their criticism for the Obama administration. This could cause real political problems for Republicans.

Two days ago, the representatives of these groups made clear their contempt for what the House Republican leadership is up to:

When the questions involve the fatalities of two heroic SEALS, as well as the injuries of brave DSS Special Agents, every government resource should be committed towards answering them. We don’t kick heroes under the carpet because we find an investigative inquiry administratively inconvenient. … Our heroes didn’t take pause while confronting fatal risk. Congress should not take pause in confronting the need to properly investigate this matter.

The nightmare scenario for Republicans would be if this large group of former special operations folks got fed up enough to mount a Swift Boat-style media campaign to explain to leadership that “Country First” needs to be a code to live by, not just some bumper-sticker slogan.

How many days — not weeks — do you think it would then take before House Republicans would be forced by aroused public opinion to stand up and find some new “leaders” who understand the meaning of the word?

If the current leadership doesn’t back off and reverse course soon, this could — and should — be their fate.

Fred J. Eckert twice served as a U.S. ambassador under President Reagan and is a recipient of the U.S. Foreign Service’s “Meritorious Honor Award.” He is also a former Republican congressman from New York. He was selected to debate the case for President Reagan’s 1986 retaliatory attack against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya by England’s Oxford University Union.