Benghazi: How To Do the Hearings Right

By: Charles Krauthammer | Posted: May 10, 2014 3:55 AM
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WASHINGTON -- The Democrats are portraying the not-yet-even constituted House Select Committee on Benghazi as nothing but a partisan exercise.

They are even considering boycotting the hearings to delegitimize them.

Fine. Although this would give the Obama-protective media a further reason to ignore Benghazi, it doesn't matter. All that matters is whether the committee produces new, important facts. If it does, it will be impossible to ignore.

We've already seen what a single piece of new evidence can do in reviving interest in a story that many (including me) thought the administration had successfully stonewalled. The "PREP CALL with Susan [Rice]" email from Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, was withheld eight months until revealed by court order. It advises the U.N. ambassador to focus on an anti-Islam Internet video, thus contradicting the perennial White House claim that Rice's blame-the-video five-show fable came just from intelligence community talking points and not from a White House in full campaign mode.

The select committee will be headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy, a skilled 16-year prosecutor. He needs to keep the hearings clean and strictly fact-oriented. Questions only, no speechifying. Every sentence by every GOP committee member must end with a question mark. Should any committee Republican instead make a statement ending in a period, the chairman should immediately, by button, deliver an electric shock through the violator's seat.

The areas of inquiry are obvious. They are three: before, during and after.


Where and to what extent was there dereliction of duty as memos, urgent pleas and mounting evidence of danger were ignored and the U.S. ambassador allowed to enter a deathtrap?


What happened during the eight hours of the Benghazi attack, at the end of which the last two Americans (of four) were killed by mortar fire? Where was the commander in chief and where was the responsible Cabinet secretary, Hillary Clinton? What did they do?

The White House acts as if these are, alternatively, either state secrets or of no importance.

For President Obama, we have three data points. At 5 p.m. EDT, he is briefed on the attack by the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

At around 8 p.m., Obama spends an hour on the phone with Benjamin Netanyahu to tamp down a breaking, politically injurious story that Obama had snubbed the Israeli prime minister. The White House then issues a readout saying the two leaders had agreed there had been no snub.

So the White House is engaged in campaign damage control quite literally in the middle of the Benghazi events -- at a time when Ambassador Chris Stevens is still missing and the final firefight that killed two other Americans is still three hours away. We've just learned that Obama was not in the Situation Room that night. Then where, doing what?

We know, finally, that at 10 p.m. Obama called Clinton to get an update. What did they discuss, decide, order?

As former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has pointed out, a half-hour later, State issued a statement deploring the video, setting the premise for the video excuse. Were Obama and Clinton working on a cover story -- even before Glen Doherty had joined Tyrone Woods on the roof of the CIA annex where they were to die minutes later?

Yes, that's speculation. Well, then, give us facts. After all, the White House provided a cascade of hagiographic facts about Obama's involvement in the Osama bin Laden raid. Yet regarding Benghazi -- the most serious operational challenge of his presidency -- he is nowhere to be seen.


We now know the White House was pushing the "video made them do it" cover-up, lest the blame be placed on administration policy. Who was involved in that decision, obviously designed to protect a president campaigning that al-Qaida was "on the run"?

These hearings are a big political risk for Republicans. Going into the 2014 election, they stand to benefit from the major issues -- Obamacare, the economy, chronic unemployment -- from which Benghazi hearings can only distract. Worse, if botched like previous hearings on the matter, these hearings could backfire against the GOP, as did the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings. On purely partisan considerations, the hearings are not worth the political risk.

But the country deserves the truth. They'll get it if the GOP can keep the proceedings clean, factual and dispassionate. No speeches. No grandstanding. Gowdy has got to be a tough disciplinarian -- especially toward his own side of the aisle.

Charles Krauthammer's email address is

(c) 2014, The Washington Post Writers Group

Tags: News, Columns

Comments (3)

1:10PM MAY 12TH 2014
Dear Mr. Krauthammer,

there are two points I would like to make, rather ask you to see if there is any validity behind the claims as they relate to the death and security of our foreign service man and our embassies at the time of the Benghazi tragedy.

From fairly reliable sources, I've heard, that our ambassador, Mr. Stevens, on the night of September 11th, had dinner with the Turkish Ambassador at our Consoled in Benghazi. The topic, the Obama administration, wanted to sell arms, through the Turkish government. At the end of diner the Ambassador accepted, and agreed, their support. Our ambassador did relay this info to the state dept., BUT they also wanted to eliminate any credible witnesses to this agreement. This was accomplished by the attack on our Embassy and the four dead American

The second question: when this incident happened, I believe it was the next day, that I heard, unfortunately, I do not recall, if it was on TV or Radio, BUT the news clip went something like this: "...we also had reports, that the Secretary of State, HAD ORDERED, that our Marines guarding our embassies, through out the Arab world, as well as in some European cities, were not allowed to have bullets in their side arms it may have applied to ALL their other arms, and If true, that would have LEFT OUR PERSONAL TOTALY UNPROTECTED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD."

this news clip, I've heard perhaps two more times, that day, but never again. Perhaps, there was an adage, that stated, we contacted the State Dept., but received, NO COMMENT":

With your resources, you could follow up on these questions, If true, they would certainly have a big impact and would explain a lot of the mystery, that surrounds this shameful event.
7:30PM MAY 12TH 2014
Seems like just more typical wild conspiracy blabbering nonsense . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
7:55AM MAY 10TH 2014
Gee, you know if they actually wanted to take the politics out of this, they could actually have the investigative committee be equally balanced politically with dual chairmen . . . . but that would take away from the real purpose, wouldn't it . . . . to attack and demonize Hillary and stir-up to a feeding frenzy the easily gullible far right . . . . . ANYONE who believes this would be happening if Hillary weren't potentially running for President in 2016 raise your partisan, truthiness right hand . . . . .

Pathetic . . . .

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