Commentary: Investigating Benghazi But Ignoring the Jan. 6 Insurrection

A political science professor says that Republicans are being hypocritical by denying the need for an investigation into the insurrection.

click to enlarge A scene from a pro-Donald Trump rally after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building. - Photo: David Geitgey Sierralupe, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: David Geitgey Sierralupe, Flickr Creative Commons
A scene from a pro-Donald Trump rally after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building.

A decade ago, there were more than a half-dozen Congressional committees investigating the attack upon the U.S. Consular Office in Benghazi, Libya. Yet chances are dimming for even a single Congressional investigation of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol itself on Jan. 6, 2021. But Congress should not be barred from investigating an attempt to overturn the election results by force. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is right; we need a second vote, free from political pressure.

As of October of 2012, there were more than seven Congressional probes of the Benghazi attack, mostly led by Republicans. 

These included (1) the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, (2) The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, (3) the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, (4) The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, (5) The House Committee on the Judiciary, (6) The House Committee on Armed Services, and (7) The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. There’s also (8) The House Select Committee on Benghazi. This list does not account for non-Congressional investigations of the terror attack.  

The Poynter Institute’s Politfact found this of Hillary Clinton’s view of the findings: “As for her comment that there was no overt wrongdoing, just room for improvement, that’s a rosy assessment. But it is also largely accurate.”

But the Benghazi probes had “done their job,” according to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who had this to say about all of those investigations. He told Sean Hannity on Fox News, “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.” 

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) rushed to insist that these hearings unbiased, but the damage by McCarthy was done. It was a major reason why McCarthy was pushed aside as a replacement for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) by Republicans who selected Paul Ryan instead.

Democrats gave in to Republican demands on membership, subpoena power, composition, and modeled the committee to investigate the attack along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. But even this bending-over-backwards wasn’t enough to satisfy McCarthy or Senate leaders, who voted down this investigation. It will be up to the Justice Department to investigate the crimes on Jan, 6, 2021, not necessarily a bipartisan affair.

For the Republican leadership, this isn’t about giving the Democrats an edge, or having their brand look terrible. Folks have already made up their minds that it was either a terrible coup attempt or simply a group of peaceful protesters calmly pleading their case in a nonviolent fashion. And everyone’s already seen the videos of what really happened, and don’t need someone else to try and explain that they didn’t see what they did see. 

It’s about having to repeat, under oath, what they said to President Donald Trump when they pleaded with him to call off the attackers. They’ve seen what’s happened to Rep. Liz Cheney in the caucus, and how every member of Congress who voted to impeach Trump got a host of primary challengers. 

And they have already faced Trump’s wrath once already, and aren’t itching to make him angry again, especially given that he has a chance to win another term, and exact his revenge upon all who ever stood up to him, or even disagreed with him, or didn’t loudly defend him.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He has written for academic journals on international and domestic politics, as well as Yahoo News, Huffington Post and The Observer.

This commentary was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.

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