While Republican members of the committee have won some success on Benghazi, Issa shies away from suggestion of impeachment — despite the fact that one member of his committee recently told National Review Online it was on the table.
“We’re doing many investigations and most of them are sins of omission — failure to do a job, failure to have a plan, failure to tell the truth. And, for the most part, failure to do things doesn’t rise to impeachment,” he explains.
“But more importantly, that’s not a decision that I expect to ever be the first to reach. I expect to be the person who works with my staff, uncovering — pealing the layers of the onion, so to speak — then presenting the information to the public and to the members of Congress,” Issa says, while still urging his fellow Republicans not to “jump to impeachment.” But don’t think that means he’s going easy on President Obama.
Asked what he knows about how the president spent the night of the Benghazi attack, Issa says Obama generally just twiddled his thumbs.
“From what we can tell he went to the residence. From what we can tell, between 5:00 in the evening and when he got on a plane for fundraisers in Las Vegas, he pretty well ignored his responsibilities as commander-in-chief,” Issa relates.
“And by the way, I’m not accidentally saying ‘ignored his responsibilities as commander-in-chief.’ George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would have required constant, periodic — you know, every hour — reporting,” he explains. “I use George W. Bush because he’s the most recent in people’s memories,” he says. “George W. Bush, if he said ‘use all measures necessary,’ he’d want to make sure we use all measures necessary.” Under the current regime? “Clearly we didn’t use any measures.”
On the Sunday shows, Pfeiffer said the president was being briefed on the situation, and that what he did and where is therefore “irrelevant.” The White House did not respond to Issa’s remarks or a request for more information about Obama’s activities that night.
I ask him, “what difference, at this point, does it make?” echoing Hillary Clinton’s famous non-answer to Senator Ron Johnson at her Benghazi testimony in January.
At the time, much of the media celebrated Clinton’s combativeness, thinking she had put an impertinent opponent in his place. But her words have lingered since as a symbol of an administration trying to get beyond a scandal that has dogged it for more than eight months.
“The difference is, public confidence comes from telling the truth as best you know it,” Issa says. “We didn’t tell the truth as best we knew it in the days and even weeks after” Benghazi, and it seems until Congress does, Darrell Issa won’t rest.
— Jonathan Strong is a political reporter for National Review Online.