New York Times columnist Gail Collins is the latest media figure to condemn the House Select Committee on Benghazi for being a partisan exercise, calling it “a textbook for bad intentions.”
On September 29 House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted that the Benghazi panel had successfully hurt Hillary Clinton's poll numbers, citing it as an accomplishment of House Republicans. Since then, a second House Republican and a former Benghazi committee staffer have corroborated the claim that the panel is a “partisan investigation” that was “designed” to target Clinton. In the aftermath of these admissions, a number of media figures and editorial boards, including the Times' editorial board, have called out the “political fakery” of the Select Committee.
In an October 21 column for The New York Times Collins joined the chorus of those blasting the partisan nature of the committee, denouncing the Benghazi panel as being “the wrong way” to investigate what went wrong in a terror attack. Citing McCarthy's remarks as well as Benghazi committee Chairman Trey Gowdy “criticiz[ing] Clinton for forwarding an email containing the name of a C.I.A. source to her aide, and in the process accidentally ma[king] the name public himself,” Collins questioned the committee's initial “promise to be fair”:
When Americans are killed in a terror attack, there's a natural, righteous need to find out what went wrong. And the trick is to do it in a way that doesn't debase the human loss with a nasty political scrum.
For the right way, you can look at the 9/11 commission.
For the wrong way, there's the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which has spent the last few months as a walking disaster. Well, actually, a sitting disaster. Or a hardly-ever-bothering-to-show-up disaster. In all its postures, it's been a textbook for bad intentions.
The first step on the road to national sanity is to acknowledge that our leaders all want to keep the people safe. There is absolutely no reason to worry on that point. But good intentions don't always lead to safe results, and the second step is to figure out what went wrong in a calm and even-handed manner.
The Benghazi committee went into its investigation with a promise to be fair. “There are certain things in our culture that have to transcend politics, and I don't mean to sound naïve, but the murder of four fellow Americans and an attack on a facility that is emblematic of our country should transcend politics,” said the committee chair, Trey Gowdy.
The very fact that Gowdy thought he might be sounding naïve should have been a warning.
That was before the House majority leader bragged how well the committee had done in bringing down Clinton's poll numbers. Before Gowdy criticized Clinton for forwarding an email containing the name of a C.I.A. source to her aide, and in the process accidentally made the name public himself.
How do you know if politicians are transcending their parties when they're investigating these painful and sensitive matters? Well, do they seem interested in important but unsexy issues like the State Department security chain of command? Or are they flinging themselves in front of the cameras, claiming that the terrible error which was Benghazi is like the criminal conspiracy which was Watergate.
Looking at you, Representative Mike (“worse than Watergate”) Pompeo. A Kansas Republican who serves on the Benghazi investigating committee, Pompeo has been making the rounds on TV, arguing that Clinton erased way more emails than Richard Nixon did White House tapes. I believe I speak for many when I say that if email had been around during the Nixon administration, we would have seen erasures the size of Mount Whitney.