The Corner

Gowdy Opening Statement at Benghazi Select Committee Hearing

A somber select committee chairman Trey Gowdy was right to begin his panel’s first hearing this morning by identifying the principal culprit in Benghazi: the ideology of our enemies. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other Americans, Sean Smith, Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, he asserted, were killed because people held a “deep-seated animus” toward Americans because of who we are.

Under circumstances where the select committee has been attacked by Democrats as a partisan witch hunt, this was clearly, as Gowdy put it, an effort “to rise above politics.” The committee must get to the bottom of what happened and must hold officials accountable. But we must remain mindful that the threat comes from America’s enemies. It is a continuing threat, which is why accountability is so important – to prevent such atrocities from happening again, to make sure Americans risking their lives for our national security have adequate security themselves, and to honor the memory of those killed on September 11, 2012.

Gowdy had a firm but respectful admonition for Democrats who have dissented from the decision to pursue the investigation of the Benghazi Massacre. The “mark of character,” he said, is to do a good job even if you don’t think task should have been assigned.

Moreover, the task is a worthy one. As he pointed out, there are still documents that have not been produced and witnesses who have not been examined. And even witnesses who have been examined were not questioned on facts that have only recently been uncovered.

Gowdy is obviously mindful of simmering, though muted, criticism from select committee supporters regarding his granting of the Democrats’ request to make the first hearing a showcase of how the administration has implemented recommendations by the State Department’s highly flawed “Accountability Review Board.” He pointed out that the government’s primary responsibilities in the diplomatic service context were to protect and defend Americans, move heaven and earth when they are attacked, and tell the American people the truth about what happened. These, of course, are the major failures in the Benghazi debacle.

The making of security recommendations after an attack has occurred is all well and good, Gowdy observed, but we do not lack for recommendations. Attacks occur again and again and again, from Beirut to the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to Benghazi – with many others in between. What is remarkable, the chairman noted, is how similar the post-mortem recommendations are every time … and yet the attacks keep happening.

To those who say it is time to move on because we now have recommendations being implemented, Gowdy asserted that we’ve heard that story before. We have enough recommendations and experience from past attacks that the crucial question is why adequate protective measures were not taken before the attack. Why are we constantly doing post-atrocity evaluations rather than anticipating and preventing attacks – especially when they are so foreseeable?

In closing, Gowdy returned to the theme of non-partisanship, hoping the select committee could approach its work not as Republicans or Democrats but just as Americans – like the four brave men who were killed. It is a worthy aspiration, however unlikely it seems.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

‘Judges for the #Resistance’

At Politico, I wrote today about the judiciary’s activism against Trump on immigration: There is a lawlessness rampant in the land, but it isn’t emanating from the Trump administration. The source is the federal judges who are making a mockery of their profession by twisting the law to block the Trump ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Friendships Are America’s Asset

The stale, clichéd conceptions of Donald Trump held by both Left and Right — a man either utterly useless or only rigidly, transactionally tolerable — conceal the fact that the president does possess redeeming talents that are uniquely his, and deserve praise on their own merit. One is personal friendliness ... Read More
U.S.

Columbia 1968: Another Untold Story

Fifty years ago this week, Columbia students riding the combined wave of the civil-rights and anti-war movements went on strike, occupied buildings across campus, and shut the university down. As you revisit that episode of the larger drama that was the annus horribilis 1968, bear in mind that the past isn’t ... Read More
Culture

Only the Strident Survive

‘I am not prone to anxiety,” historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Times of London on April 22. “Last week, however, for the first time since I went through the emotional trauma of divorce, I experienced an uncontrollable panic attack.” The cause? “A few intemperate emails, inadvertently forwarded ... Read More

Poll Finds Nevada Voters Support School-Choice Programs

According to an April poll, a large number of Nevada voters support school-choice programs. The poll, conducted by Nevada Independent/Mellman, found that 70 percent of voters support a proposal for a special-needs Education Savings Account and 59 percent support expanding the funding for the current tax-credit ... Read More