As Secretary Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi about the tragic deaths in Benghazi, Libya, of four Americans in service to our country, including US Ambassador J Christopher Stephens – a new CNN/ORC poll says 72 percent of Americans believe the panel is being used to score political points against Mrs. Clinton, compared to 23 percent who said it was carrying out an “objective probe” of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Forgetting for the moment that the accusations against Mrs. Clinton are false – especially the one that says as Secretary of State she did not respond to the security needs in Benghazi – the lack of which have been seen as contributing to the tragedy – Congress has convened seven prior Congressional committees to investigate the attack surrounding Benghazi, for a total of eight separate investigations. The chart below from Think Progress shows how that ranks with other terrorist events investigated by Congress.
House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has justifiably been under enormous political pressure of late, because of the recent embarrassing disclosures by two House members, including Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy was forced to withdraw his name to succeed Speaker John Boehner over his now-infamous admission that Gowdy’s Committee was seated with the skewed aim to investigate and take down Secretary Clinton. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) said “there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after an individual, Hillary Clinton.” In addition to the two congressmen, a since terminated staff member of the Benghazi Committee Maj. Bradley Podliska, an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican, told CNN that “the committee trained its sights almost exclusively on Clinton after the revelation last March that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. That new focus flipped a broad-based probe of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, into a partisan investigation.” Even as Gowdy was defending himself and his committee, The Washington Post reported that Gowdy had taken money from a Tea Party-funded Stop Hillary PAC, which – gee – yesterday Gowdy announced he was returning the money.
And today, Gowdy started the Hearing with a mea-culpa of sorts, sheepishly assuring Mrs. Clinton the investigation was not about her: “Madam Secretary, I understand there are people, frankly, in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you…Let me assure you it is not… .” Gowdy went on to say: “Madam Secretary, not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your email…We signed up to investigate and therefore honor the lives of four people that we sent into a dangerous country to represent us. And to do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others.”
Though recognizing the political nature of the House Select Committee, there seems to be a large element of those in the CNN poll who think that it’s OK for the Committee to show political bias in its investigation. Despite nearly three-quarters of people who believe the panel is looking to score political points – the same poll of some 500 adults, bizarrely found “51 percent of the respondents say the Republicans have handled the hearings appropriately, up from 48 percent in late May and early June.” So for more than half of the folks polled, it appears appropriate for a majority party to use public funds to establish a Congressional committee to investigate a member of the opposing political party.
But even if the political objectives of a Congressional Committee does not matter to a large segment of the American public, Gowdy certainly knows that House select committees are empowered to investigate and objectively find and report the facts to the American people. So he should not have found it necessary to tell Politico since his committee’s investigation has started to unravel in the past few weeks: “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life.” If we cannot rely on our elected representatives to fairly and impartially discharge their responsibility to investigate acts of terror that took the lives of four Americans in service to our country, one whom was a US. Ambassador, how can we ever rely on what they say needs to be done to further protect Americans serving the U.S.?
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.