The Democrats' Dilemma on Benghazi

Though they may publicly deny that there is any scandal in the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012, there must be doubts emerging, if only because we now know with certainty that a critical email was withheld in violation of a subpoena from the Issa Committee. Though most Democrats loathe Darrel Issa (and the entire Republican Party, for that matter), the expression “cover-up” is now in play, and the senior Congressional leadership of the party is old enough to remember the Watergate hearings, and the articles of impeachment that emerged from that process, authored in part by a young committee staffer named Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Article 1 cited as part of the justification for impeachment:

withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

In Watergate, keep in mind, the underlying crime was a “third-rate burglary,” while in Benghazi, it is a terror attack, the murder of an ambassador and three guards, the desecration of their flag-draped caskets with a lie from the sitting Secretary of State as to the perpetrators, and the continuing failure of the federal government to bring to justice their killers because the Pentagon’s hands have been tied by the failure of the administration to name the perpetrators as members of Al Qaeda. These matters are far more consequential than a misbegotten intelligence-gathering operation.

The mainstream media has been acting as a cofferdam around the story, limiting its impact to the Fox News and conservative blogosphere ghetto. But with a Select Committee about to be created, professional prosecutorial staff to be hired and deployed, depositions of officials, including Mrs. Clinton, to be taken for however many hours or days are required, and more emails and other documents known to exist and eventually to be released, more news will be created.

At this point, the competitive instincts of the journalism pack may be released, at least among some who have not completely signed on to the proposition that The First Black President must be protected at all costs. Last week saw an Alphabet Network White House Correspondent, Jonathan Karl of ABC News, pursue Jay Carney with a zeal that would do Fox News, The Washington Times, or The American Thinker proud. Always lurking in the back of the minds of many professional journalists is the fear of getting scooped on The Big One, even if they wish the story didn’t exist.

Sharyl Attkisson may have left CBS News, which has its own dilemma to deal with on the Benghazi story, but she is far from silenced, with a book in process and a keen sense of righteous concern.

That media cofferdam may be springing more leaks, which in turn means that this story could build in an accelerating crescendo toward an election that is half a year away. Quietly, in many cases subconsciously, Congressional Democrats have got to be wondering if the SS Obama is a sinking ship, and if so, whether they want to be on it.

The immediate question is: do they follow the suggestion of California Democrat Adam Schiff and boycott the Select Committee, hoping that they can thus tar it as a completely partisan operation. There is considerable danger for such a hardline approach. First of all, the committee will go on with them or without them, so whatever evidence is produced through its investigation will be aired. With even Speaker Boehner, an accommodationist of the first order, on board, Democrats can be certain that Republicans are not about to abandon ship.

The greater risk is that boycotting the hearings, Democrats could be seen as implicating themselves in the cover-up. As much as they publicly affirm their love and support for President Obama, many Congressional Democrats are highly cognizant of two facts:

  1. His signature legislation has put many of them at risk in the 2014 election. Without ObamaCare, incumbents like Mary Landrieu could have sailed to re-election. But now their base is disheartened and the opposition energized.
  2. President Obama is no longer trusted by the electorate to tell the truth. As the laureate of the Politifact Lie of Year award, skepticism over his forthcoming defenses for whatever the Select Committee will be legitimate. “Trust me” is an inadequate argument.

For the moment, these doubts, suspicions, and worries will remain silent, operating privately and often subconsciously. The first sign we will get will be the reaction to Schiff’s boycott call.

But it is time for self-preservation instincts to come to the fore. Almost nobody who doesn’t call Delaware home wants to see a President Biden, and impeachment of The First Black President remains virtually unthinkable. But cautious distancing may be in order for Democrats.

Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren will be watching Hillary Clinton, so deeply implicated in the Benghazi lead-up and aftermath, to see if she follows the advice of her friend Tina Brown, an opinion leader of sorts among the fashionable progressives, and decides that politics may not be worth the trouble. Benghazi could be the end of more than one political career.

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