PURPLE NATION -- June 24, 2015
On June 9, 1954, Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, chairman of a House subcommittee investigating communism in government, was confronted by attorney Joseph Welch during nationally televised hearings. McCarthy had carried on his anti-communism innuendo campaign through congressional investigations for several years. Now, before a national audience, he attacked a young legal associate of Welch as a member of a communist "front" organization when he was at law school.
In what will go down in history as the moment of McCarthy's undoing, Welch reacted with outrage to this attack on his associate. "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
The Senate censured McCarthy six months later and his career was over.
So I ask a similar question of Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and the other five Republicans on the panel: Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Martha Roby (Ala.), Peter Roskam (Ill.) and Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.).
Have you lost all sense of shame?
The decision to call private citizen Sidney Blumenthal, former President Clinton's assistant and Hillary Clinton's longtime friend, on June 16 for a behind-closed-doors sworn deposition is emblematic of the shameful, shamelessly partisan conduct of Gowdy and the Republicans on his committee -- and their constituents should be asking them each this same question.
There are facts they cannot deny.
Blumenthal had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack or the government's reaction to it. He passed along to Hillary Clinton, then secretary of State, via email information from a former high-ranking CIA official about Libya. She, in turn, passed along some of Blumenthal's emails to see if they contained anything useful. That is it. Both acted responsibly.
He volunteered to come to the committee to respond to all questions, without the need for a subpoena. Yet the committee Republicans sent two federal marshals in the middle of the day to his doorstep to serve a subpoena on his wife -- and leaked to the media the fact they were serving a subpoena.
Blumenthal was questioned for nine hours. Democratic members estimate the questions asked by Gowdy and the Republican members of a committee that's supposed to be investigating the tragedy of Benghazi to be as follows:
• More than 160 about his relationship and communications with the Clintons, and fewer than 20 about the Benghazi attack;
• More than 50 about the Clinton Foundation, and just four about security in Benghazi;
• More than 270 about Blumenthal's humanitarian Haitian assistance idea, which came to nothing and in which no money was ever exchanged, and zero about the U.S. presence in Benghazi;
• Forty-five questions about David Brock, Media Matters and related organizations, and zero about former Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who with three other Americans was killed in the attack.
The nature of the questions asked exposes the committee's true intent. Many of the questions amounted to this: Are you now or have you ever been a Democrat? Are you now or have you ever been a friend of Hillary Clinton?
The Republicans on the committee refuse to make the transcript of the embarrassing deposition public. Why? I wrote Gowdy to ask him for a copy. No answer. Yet one day after the deposition, the National Review published a leaked email that Blumenthal provided to the committee; a conservative on Bloomberg News released a different email; and Politico published a story quoting "another GOP select committee member" to characterize Blumenthal's document submission and testimony. None of these selective leaks reported what the committee Republicans asked or what Blumenthal answered.
The committee was created despite the fact that numerous other committees had already investigated Benghazi, costing millions of tax dollars, including the Republican-led House Intelligence and Armed Services committees. None of them found intentional distortion of the causes of the tragedy by the White House or State Department; there was no stand-down order, no political cover-up. The panel has spent more than $3.5 million so far and maintains an 18-member staff, whose full-time employees are paid an average of $128,750 per year. (Yes, self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, they!) Yet it's held so far only three public hearings -- and they are still refusing Clinton's repeated requests to appear and testify publicly.
Is there anyone who can doubt that Gowdy and these five other Republicans are participants in nothing neither more nor less than a partisan sham, out to harm Hillary Clinton and existing for no other reason?
To repeat: Have they no sense of shame?
This post was originally published on The Hill.
Mr. Davis is a weekly columnist for The Hill newspaper, writing under the name, "Purple Nation." This column appears first and weekly in The Hill and the Hill.com.
Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, and is Executive Vice President of the strategic communications firm, LEVICK. He is the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life (Threshold Editions/Simon and Schuster).