Welcome to Benghazi II. The sequel was as bad as the original, maybe worse. One thing about this one definitely was worse.
In case you somehow missed it, there was a circus in town last week. The combined House Judiciary and Oversight Committees conducted a “hearing” (or something…). Much was written while the hearing went on, into the early evening, and much immediately after. I decided to let things marinate a bit and see what I thought about all this with a little time for reflection.
To be fair, I did not watch gavel to gavel coverage. I did that the last time this sort of thing happened. I watched all 9+ hours of the Hillary Clinton/Benghazi hearings. At the end of that event, I had three overarching conclusions:
(1) Clinton beat the heck out of these people, (2) This was so transparently a political hatchet job, with not even a pretense of actual congressional purpose, and (3) Given how badly it went, surely the Republicans in Congress learned their lesson not to do that again.
Turns out, I underestimated their eagerness for self-inflicted wounds.
I did not have the stomach to watch all of this again on Thursday. I did check in throughout the day and reviewed a lot of the follow-on commentary. I thought in the first few minutes, “This is amazing, they are doing the same thing, all over again.” Once again, the designated punching bag was far more up to the battle than were his protagonists.
As noted earlier, this one had all the flaws of its predecessor. Members of the panel, for the most part, had done little or no preparation for this day. It was sad and amusing to see some of them run out of gas when the witness engaged them. They had to go beyond their talking points; there was no there, there.
Supervisory Special Agent in Charge Peter Strzok was impressive. This was a guy eager to have his opportunity to speak out, even though this format limits what a witness can say. He came prepared to defend himself but seemed even more determined to defend the FBI. Strzok has done some dumb things that cost him personally and professionally. Still, he was the adult and the person with moral anchors in that room.
But, I now believe that Rep. Gowdy may need some counselling. He was at his worst in the Benghazi hearing, a capstone to 3 years of wasted time, money, and effort. Then he announced he was leaving Congress and made a couple of boldly rational statements (Why is these folks have to quit before they find any courage?).
Yesterday he was back in his old mold. It was a bizarre, crude performance all day long. At one point he told Strzok, “I don’t give a damn what you think.” It must have taken all the will power Strzok had not to reply, “I suppose that makes us even – millions of Americans must be thinking the same thing about you now. I know I am.”
I mentioned that one thing made this hearing far worse than the Benghazi hearing, and this is saying a lot.
As bad as Benghazi was, it was mostly political theater, aimed at a presidential candidate. The State Department and other government professionals were collateral damage. This time, Republican legislators had the express mission of discrediting institutions and individuals. This hearing in particular was aimed at discrediting our leading counter spy expert in the FBI. This effort to discredit included the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Special Investigation. All this to protect Donald Trump. There was no other goal.
I have had my disagreements over the years with each of these agencies. I have had my share of a shouting matches with individuals within them. Never once did I doubt the integrity or patriotism in their ranks. There must be exceptions, but they would be damn few. That sitting members of Congress would trash our institutions, would reinforce the notion that nothing in government is trustworthy, is shameful at best.
On this issue alone, if one of this lynch mob is your representative, you need a new person behind that desk. You deserve better; we all do.
One may be a Trump supporter; we are all entitled to our opinions. But, that does not include as OK attacking our core institutions to protect a man who increasingly looks guilty. Let’s have enough confidence in the process to let the investigation run its course and see where we are. Let’s have enough perspective that no one person is important enough to sacrifice all around him just to keep him standing.
At this point, it would be surprising to me to see a clean bill of health come out for Trump and Company. There are 31 indictments, convictions, or confessions already in. Several officials or senior campaign officials have lied about contact with the Russians.
Given that tally alone, one could hardly call this a “witch hunt.” Gross opportunism seems likely, if not outright collusion. But let’s see the evidence before calling a judgment. I could be wrong, but either way, I don’t think we have all that much longer to wait.
There was no substance in evidence last Thursday, only spectacle. Still, lessons are there and as a citizen, you should have a feel for this thing. There is a lot of commentary floating around. The networks have conveniently made most of the fireworks exchanges accessible. If you would like to peruse the hearings largely unfiltered, there are good sources to consider.
One is a Balloon Juice recording (all 10+ hours). https://www.balloon-juice.com/2018/07/12/house-judiciary-and-oversight-and-government-reform-committee-hearing-with-fbi-supervisory-special-agent-in-charge-peter-strzok-live-feed/.
Another is a good text recap and timeline by Channel 13 (ABC) Houston. This is easier and faster to run through. http://abc13.com/fbi-agent-peter-strzok-testifies-about-anti-trump-texts-live-updates/3752025/
Watch, read, decide for yourself who served what values on this day. For me, as a taxpayer, I would like to know what this day cost. How much on preparation? OK, it would appear no time allocated for most of the members. Still, it looked like staff spent a lot of time printing up things for them to say. And the cost of the day of hearings itself.
As for me, I want my money back.
If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:
(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.
(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts. Let’s grow our circle.