Why is Boehner Resisting a Special Committee on Benghazi?
Some things don't stack up. On Monday, Politico headlined that Speaker John Boehner was fixated with the bubbling Benghazi scandal. In fact, Politico termed the speaker's fixation as "big."
So why is Boehner dragging his feet on empanelling a special (or select) committee to tackle the Benghazi disaster? Why is the speaker standing pat on last week's statement that House standing committees are getting the investigative job done?
Most everyone has Boehner's snapshot: cautious by nature, a Washingtonized pol who'd rather play than fight. But, as Politico contends, the speaker is invested in the growing Benghazi controversy. Politico outlined the speaker's behind-the-scenes involvement:
With Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) as the public face and the speaker's office as the muscle, House Republicans are turning turn [sic] the story of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya that left four Americans dead from a mesh of confusing details into a defining political fight with President Barack Obama.
And more from Politico:
Starting last fall, Boehner has run a Capitol-wide campaign to keep turf-conscious committee chairs informed, at the same time using his sway to press the Obama administration to comply with congressional investigators trying to untangle what happened.
The speaker has privately strategized with high-profile GOP senators like John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and held briefings for top committee figures like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).
Boehner has told leadership colleagues when they're focusing on the terrorist attack, they're fighting on their political ground.
"This is all Boehner," said one senior Republican aide of the focus on Benghazi. "He's obsessed with it. He brings it up all the time." The sentiment was echoed with conversations throughout leadership, and the dynamic is acknowledged by his own aides.
As The Hill reported last week, why would Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who's pushing hard for a special committee, intimate that the speaker would be "complicit" in a White House cover-up if he failed to get a select committee up and running?
Wolf has rounded up a large majority of his House Republican colleagues to support his push. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, notably, have made public and direct calls to Boehner urging the committee.
We could take at face value Boehner's insistence that the House's standing committees are doing their jobs in outing the scandal's facts and will eventually hold to account those culpable for the disaster and cover-up.
Perhaps Boehner -- ever cautious -- wants more time to see how the State Department's internal review of the disaster plays out before triggering a select committee. But as White House Dossier reports:
There is no mention in the report of the what Clinton or Obama did related to Benghazi. In fact, Obama isn't mentioned at all in the document, and Clinton only once -- in the context of her appointing the Review Board. There is no suggestion that Clinton or Obama were interviewed or even examined by the investigation.
Strategically, Boehner may think that a multiplicity of committees investigating Benghazi protracts the controversy, which redounds to the GOP's advantage as the nation approaches the 2014 midterm elections.
Or perhaps Boehner sees a special committee as taking away his captaincy of the issue, given his current strong behind-the-scenes role.
Or maybe some combination of all of the above with other considerations thrown in for good measure.
At the American Spectator yesterday, Jed Babbin asks:
Will Boehner have the guts to pass Wolf's bill? He should, for a host of reasons both substantive and political. In a Friday editorial the Wall Street Journal wrote, "Across this country's history, the murder of an American ambassador, the nation's representative, has been taken as not merely a tragedy but an attack on U.S. interests that demands an official accounting to the American people." With the Journal providing cover for him, Boehner has no excuse to not pass it.
As Babbin explains, a select committee becomes the focal point of the investigation, a powerful consolidated entity that will create a unified narrative and command media attention.
The select committee would, under Wolf's bill, have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. So who's getting subpoenaed this week? Is Obama resisting the document subpoenas? Has he claimed executive privilege yet? What did Hillary's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, say in her deposition? It's easy to see that creating a select committee could have one overriding effect: the White House should be as tied up with it as Congress was with Obamacare. Our politicians spent about eighteen months on that without a break.
Give Boehner credit: he's been engaged on Benghazi, pushing the issue ahead. But, clearly, a select committee is in order. Practically, the speaker risks more if he defies his conference by continuing to stall on making a special committee a reality.
Boehner understands that there's much a stake over Benghazi -- for the nation, for justice, for his party, and his speakership. The speaker needs to yield, and soon.