When you read this column, the issue may be resolved in a responsible fashion. It may have been wrongly decided, in which case we must all prepare to endure another round of petty partisan outrage. If the issue is still open for discussion, the voice of the American people might be helpful.
This week, John Boehner, Speaker of the House, decided to appoint a select committee to investigate the facts surrounding the attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi. As of the writing of this column, minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic whip, Steny Hoyer have transmitted a letter to the speaker objecting to the select committee’s organization. They demand changes including an equal number of Democratic members on the committee. As matters now stand, the committee will be comprised of seven Republicans and five Democrats.
If Republicans don’t yield to Democratic demands, there is rumbling there will be a Democratic “boycott.” Jim Clyburn, one of the Democratic leaders, says boycott is likely. The ostensible justification for the boycott threat is this: If you don’t do it our way, it’s a waste of time and we won’t participate.
Such a boycott would be bad for the Democratic Party. Here’s why. Even if this is a flawed tool, it may be the only tool available to get the comprehensive facts surrounding the Benghazi tragedy. But a boycott is also bad for the people. It may be a short-term expedient to a partisan agenda, but it delivers another needless blow to the people’s confidence in their government.
Let’s examine the stated reasons why a boycott is justified.
Reason No. 1: We already have all the facts. If this is true, the only downside to convening the committee is the time and money spent arriving at the conclusion that we already knew everything we needed to know. But if the time and money spent disposes of the groundswell of suspicion that facts are being concealed, it’s time and money well spent.
Even if the committee’s time and effort proves a waste, there’s an aroma of hypocrisy hovering around a determination not to participate in this particular waste. American voters are accustomed to seeing their Congress wallow in wasteful practices. When some legislator indignantly refuses to participate in some wasteful activity, voters would be justified in wondering, “Why is this particular waste more offensive than the usual variety of gross waste you participate in every day?” Voters would be justified in suspecting there’s more to this “waste” than meets the eye.
But what if there is still important evidence being withheld? Is there any reason to believe this is a possibility?
There’s no need to review the long roster of misstatements, distortions, half-truths, omissions and surprising revelations that plagued every effort to get to the truth about what happened in Benghazi. At numerous points along the way, we’ve been told, “OK, now you have all the important facts.” Each time this assertion is made, something new emerges. The recent Rhodes email indicating there was greater White House involvement in the initial misrepresentation is sufficient smoke to believe there are still some undiscovered flames.
Reason No. 2: If Democrats can’t have equal membership, they won’t participate. Since there are numerous instances where the majority party constitutes committees with majority membership this objection has a whiff of cynical pretext. One of the most common dodges in the “spoiled child” playbook is, “play by my rules or I won’t play at all.” There’s no need to spend much time explaining why boycott on this basis would be … unworthy.
If Democrats boycott and nothing new emerges, Republicans will get a credibility boost for “letting the chips fall where they may.” Democrats may have the pleasure of smirking, “told ya so.” But there’s not much mileage to be gained from a rejoinder like this if the inquiry is justified in the first place.
On the other hand, if additional damaging evidence comes to light, voters might suspect these embarrassing facts are the real reason for the boycott. They might suspect the true motivation for attempting to sabotage the committee’s work is a desire to conceal the truth.
But the real losers in a boycott would be the American voters. The momentum in the level of dysfunction plaguing our government is picking up speed by the day. Someone has to slow this momentum down or we’ll all get suffocated. A boycott would be a new low in partisan tantrums.
Hopefully, as you read this column, everyone has come to their senses. If not, the American voter must speak up and demand that the Congress do its job. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.