According to news reports, Hillary Clinton’s supporters pressured Democrats to participate in the select committee investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, evidencing concern that this could go poorly for Clinton’s presidential aspiration. Let’s consider the Democrats’ ability to lend the former secretary of state a helping hand.
Certainly Democrats can stress that neither Clinton nor her department were the movers in the infamous talking points memos. Democrats should join with Republicans in demanding Ben Rhodes, the author of a recently released e-mail used to prepare then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, testify before the committee. They should demand the administration waive executive privilege claims that might be used to shield White House aides from responsibility and lend credence to the claim that Clinton was involved in the cover-up story.
Likewise, Democrats also should demand former CIA Director David Petraeus explain the CIA’s aversion to making the connection between the attack and the video and communications between the intelligence community and the White House that pin down how quickly everyone was aware this was a terrorist attack. Clinton has been roundly criticized for dropping the ball on the influx of al-Qaeda into Libya. But was she given bad information or was insufficient information conveyed to her? The CIA can enlighten us on that subject.
Democrats may think they can run interference simply by making speeches, objecting to testimony and evidence-gathering and accusing Republicans of politicizing the scandal. But that would be a mistake if they really want to protect Clinton. Her problem is that an adept White House and finger-pointing CIA have covered their tracks, leaving her to face the critics. Only by getting out who did what and who wrote what can her role in the fiasco be put into perspective.
Now there is only so much they can do. There may be no good answer as to why she didn’t pull her people out when other countries evacuated their staffs. She may have no great excuse for why an accountability review board didn’t question her. And it might be tough to explain why Cheryl Mills, according to prior testimony, instructed State Department employees not to talk to congressmen. On those points and others her greatest danger may not be the committee but the campaign trail.
In any event, it’s useful and proper for Democrats to participate, whatever their rationale for doing so. Like Republicans, they, too, are going to be watched for over-politicizing the proceedings. Are they interested in getting to the bottom or this or merely helping Clinton or the president duck responsibility? When the administration (as a result of the Veterans Affairs debacle and other missteps) is coming under abuse even from fellow Democrats and the mainstream media, it might be off-putting to act like the president’s defense counsel. Given the choice between blaming a sinking president or damaging their next presidential nominee, the wise move might be to do the former. Really, what, at this point, do they owe the White House?