The Campaign Spot

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter

There’s a certain sweetness in watching a cynical, ruthless political opposition frozen in indecision because they can’t decide which option is more politically advantageous:

House Democrats on Sunday made it clear that they do not expect fair proceedings from the Republican-led panel newly tasked with investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, but offered no definitive answer on whether they would appoint any of their own members to participate.

It doesn’t really matter. The Democrats seem to think that their participation comes with some sort of nebulous sense of “validity” stapled to it, and that their participation is a bargaining chip that the Republicans greatly desire. They also seem convinced that they can somehow strong-arm special committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. into giving them the power to veto subpoenas in exchange for this nebulous sense of “validity.”

Congressional Democrats greatly overestimate the value of their presence, both in this particular example and as a general rule.

Still, with or without Democrats, the House panel faces the steepest of uphill climbs because it’s trying to reintroduce a concept that this administration rejects on a cellular level: accountability. This is the administration where Kathleen Sebelius stays on the job after she blind-sides the president on the condition of Healthcare.gov, IRS employees retire early and go on paid administrative leave, and the four State Department officials most directly responsible for not acting on Ambassador Chris Stevens’ warnings were put on paid administrative leave. For a while. Then they were reinstated. This is an administration where it is commonplace for Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to conduct official business on “alternative” e-mail accounts that somehow never get included in responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. This administration collectively shrugs when they learn that the president spent enormous political capital – and $10.5 billion in taxpayer money – to save a car company that made cars that killed people if their key chains were too heavy.

If there were any pulse left in the idealistic guy who ran for president in 2008, who promised a vastly improved federal government to the American people, the president would be saying something like this:

When the uprising against Qaddafi began in Libya, it was clear to me that it was in our national interest to stand with the people against an autocratic ruler who had sponsored terrorism against Americans in the past and whose long history of irrational and brutal rule meant he could never be a reliable U.S. ally. Our effort to help the Libyans build a decent and just form of government was spearheaded by one of the very best of our diplomatic corps, Chris Stevens. Chris and his team, along with our intelligence community, had a separate, difficult and dangerous mission: securing the now-loose weapons of Qaddafi’s arsenal, rapidly flowing to the wrong hands in and out of Libya. We knew that during Libya’s civil war, our Qatari allies had sent anti-aircraft weapons to help the rebels – and those weapons could lead to a massacre if they ended up in the hands of a terrorist. I know many Americans feel like we’ve already spent too much blood and treasure trying to help these far-off corners of the world turn the corner from bloody chaos to order and peace. But this was a danger we felt we needed to address, because someday it might threaten the lives of Americans  – and that meant we had to have Americans on the ground in dangerous places like Benghazi.

We now know our State Department underestimated the threat, and did not take the warnings from the staff on the ground seriously enough. Our military took the first steps to mobilizing forces for a rescue that night, but our efforts didn’t move nearly quickly enough as our brave men and women in harm’s way have a right to expect. And our explanation to the American people in the days afterwards blurred the lines between a protest in Egypt and what clearly was an opportunistic, barbaric attack by terrorists, hell-bent on killing Americans.  The suddenness of the attack, and the challenges of geography and the murky, shifting alliances in far-off lands with little functioning government are factors, but not an excuse. The American people deserve better, and we must perform better in the future.

We’ll never get anything resembling that speech from President Obama. He’s just not capable of it. 

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