Most people expect Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to lie. It’s what they do for a living. But one of the more disturbing elements of Congressional culture these days is the fact that House Republican “oversight hearings” have devolved into Stalinesque show trials. One after another, the Republican Members of Congress inflate, fabricate, overstate, prevaricate, exaggerate, dissimulate, manipulate and intimidate. Why? For one simple purpose: so that they can try to implicate, deprecate, vitiate, repudiate, extirpate, eliminate, excommunicate, humiliate and, ultimately, obliterate the President of the United States.
Case in point: the Benghazi tragedy. Last month, Senator Lindsey Graham threatened to block Presidential nominations over the Benghazi “scandal”. More than a year after the fact, House Republicans continue to try to conjure the myth that the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans somehow constituted misconduct on the part of President Obama and then-Secretary Clinton. When the House Foreign Affairs Committee held its 4th hearing on Benghazi, Congressman Alan Grayson very succinctly disproved that myth. Afterward, on Sirius/XM national radio, he discussed the underlying issue - Republicans scandal-mongering. Here is how it went:
—begin excerpt from Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing—
Congressman Alan Grayson: Ambassador, I’d like to ask you a few questions about Benghazi, the scandal that never was. Who decided that Ambassador Stevens go to Benghazi on September 11, 2012?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: It was the Ambassador’s decision, sir.
Alan: Now, was Secretary Clinton responsible in any way for reviewing and approving the in-country movements of U.S. ambassadors, either Ambassador Stevens or anyone else?
Ambassador Kennedy: No sir, under departmental policy, ambassadors only need Washington permission if they leave their country of assignment, not the capital city.
—end excerpt from Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing—
Ari Rabin-Havt: We are pleased to welcome to the program the questioner in that exchange, Congressman Alan Grayson. Representative Grayson, thank you so much. It’s a brilliant four-minute video, just dismantling them in your time at the hearing yesterday. That was Patrick Kennedy testifying, who is an Obama Administration official, but who was actually a Bush Administration official originally. You just literally took apart the Benghazi scandal, in five minutes there.
Alan: Well, we’re in a strange and difficult situation right now. It’s true that from time to time bad things happen in lives of Americans. It’s inevitable. We often wonder why bad things happen to good people, but what happens after that is even sadder. Whenever anything goes wrong, the scandal-mongers and the fear-mongers and the haters on the other side in the Republican Party try to somehow exploit it. An ambassador died. Three others died. They were killed by attackers whom we haven’t been able to identify and bring to justice. The world’s a big place, where awful things happen. And somehow or other all that adds up, in the minds of Republicans, to [the notions that] “Obama must have done something wrong, Hillary must have done something wrong, and we need to use this sad experience in order to attack them.” It just doesn’t add up. I read every classified document regarding Benghazi. I read all the emails. I read all the diplomatic cables. I read all the CIA reports. And there’s no scandal in there. There just isn’t. The ambassador decided to take a risk, to go to a place that wasn’t secure, in order to conduct diplomacy and to rally the pro-freedom forces that he knew so well from the time he’d been in Benghazi before the [Libyan] Revolution. He took a chance. It didn’t work out well. It doesn’t mean that Hillary is the devil. It doesn’t mean that Barack Obama is the devil. It simply happened. And it’s appalling to me to see this blame game being played out over and over and over again against responsible people who show up every day and do their jobs well, and [then] get vilified by their side simply because they’re Democrats.
Ari: And one point I want to make on the side of this is: All too often these hearings, I feel like Congressmen waste their time with long introductory remarks. Just as an appreciative note, one thing I loved is [that] you went right to the examination. You didn’t wait. Is that part of your instinct, having been a litigator?
Alan: Well, it’s part of my instinct as someone who actually wants to hear the witness’s answers. You’re absolutely right. The great, great majority of Members of Congress who have their five minutes (that’s all we’re given, five minutes) to question these witnesses, [they] give a speech that lasts for four minutes and fifty-nine seconds, and then turn to the witness and say, “What about that?” As if that’s going to somehow illuminate things. These are important people, who have a lot of things to do. Before, on an earlier occasion, it was Secretary Clinton; this time it was the Ambassador. If we’re going to bring them in and ask them to submit to our questions, we should at least actually ask them questions. They should be interesting questions. They should be questions where you don’t necessarily know the answer. Where we might learn something from the answer. So, yes, the system of hearings has become boring and ineffectual in Congress because Members of Congress are boring and ineffectual. If we’re going to have these hearings, let’s do it right, let’s learn something from the witnesses, and give them a chance to answer.
Ari: I read through Pickering and Mullen’s transcripts of their testimony before [Republican Oversight Chairman] Issa’s investigators, before they testified. And it was unbelievable to me, reading that — reading the Issa Report that was released earlier in the week and then reading those transcripts – the two are so incongruent with each other, it’s shocking.
Alan: Well, we have now reached the point where the Republicans are incapable of embarrassment. It is shocking. It’s shocking that a witness would come in and testify and say “X,” and somehow that is transmogrified into “Not-X,” purely for political purposes. Because the Republicans are so desperate to stick a knife into our President. They are so desperate to stick a knife into Secretary Clinton. They so fear her, and the potential that she will be our next President, that they’re willing to ignore and distort and twist and transmogrify reality, sworn testimony, into the opposite.
Ari: They [House Republicans] released this report. They leaked it to a bunch of reporters. The headlines at the Daily Beast and all these places were, basically, “Issa’s Got Clinton Now.” So I went to the report, and I read all hundred pages of it, which was actually a painful experience that I will never repeat again in my life. I got to the section where they get to their final accusation against Hillary Clinton. It was amazing to me, the phrasing they used. This was it. It was: “E-mails reviewed by the Committee, however, show it is likely that Secretary Clinton’s views played some role in the decision making on the future of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.” So basically, their big accusation against Hillary is that she had some opinion on Libya.
Alan: Yes, that’s right, their accusation against her is that she actually did her job, that when she was Secretary of State, she actually functioned as Secretary of State, which is frankly more than you can say for them. These are people who actually have the serious responsibility, in some respects the grave responsibility, of making sure that our government functions properly. These are the people who run the committee in the House that’s responsible for oversight of the U.S. Government. And rather than performing that function in a practical way that protects the taxpayers, protects the citizens, instead all they do is they run their political show trials, their Soviet-style political show trials, and try to deceive the public into thinking that people who are doing good are actually doing bad.
Ari: Now let’s compare this to what went on during the Bush Administration. You were a lawyer in private practice going at contractors [who were] defrauding people, doing the job that Congress should have been doing.
Alan: And that the [Bush] Administration should have been doing. Yes, I prosecuted war profiteers in Iraq. I represented whistleblowers. I was the only lawyer actually to take a case against war profiteers in Iraq to trial and win. We won a $14 million judgment on behalf of the taxpayers. In general, the committees that were supposed to perform those functions – dominated by Republicans in the House, dominated by fake prosecutors in the Bush Administration – these people did not perform their function. They sat on their hands for years and years, and let the crooks run wild.
Ari: And it’s amazing, because many of those same staffers are now running these Benghazi investigations, [the ones] who should have been doing their job earlier in the millennium.
Alan: Yes. There is this interesting career path. The more unscrupulous you are in a Republican Presidential administration, the more unscrupulous you can be working on [Capitol] Hill.
Ari: Where do you think the Benghazi investigation goes after these three hearings, after this series? Clearly the Republicans are not going to give up, clearly this is going to keep cycling every few weeks. Where do you think it goes next?
Alan: It’s got nowhere to go. They have pushed every button; they have pulled every string. There’s nowhere to go. If you actually look back to the beginning, they’ve changed their lines of attack over and over and over again. First the argument was that the President – as you may recall, this came up during one of the Presidential debates – the President didn’t call [Benghazi] a terrorist attack. Well, he did call it a terrorist attack, as Candy Crowley pointed out very vividly in the debate. Then the argument was that they had not taken military action to somehow make this attack stop. But the attack was over so quickly, as the Ambassador testified yesterday. Within 90 minutes the Ambassador was dead, maybe less. The Ambassador was gone long before any U.S. military force could have possibly had any impact on the situation. And then they try another attack, which is that they say that [Secretary] Clinton should not have ordered him into Benghazi in the first place, because it wasn’t safe. Well, it turns out she didn’t order him into Benghazi, as the Ambassador pointed out yesterday. In-country ambassadors are entirely in charge of their own movements. There’s no evidence that she ordered him, didn’t order him, or had anything to do with that decision. There’s no evidence of that at all. And on and on and on. And now their gripe, their big gripe, is that the people who were generally in charge of security at posts like Benghazi somehow did not do enough in order to prevent this from happening. And all four of those people have been reassigned. So the idea that they somehow escaped without any repercussions is ridiculous, but that’s what the Republicans are pushing right now.
Ari: And there were so many minor flare-ups in the interim. “Hillary Clinton faked her concussion” [the Republicans said].
Alan: Right, right. I’m sure that next they’ll say Hillary Clinton faked her gender, so she could run to be the first woman President. That’ll be their next claim, that she’s faking her gender. It’ll never end. They’re demented. They’re people who like nothing more than a good lie, and we see that over and over again. You see their smiles, as the lie rolls off their lips. They enjoy it. That’s just the way they are.
Ari: Well, thank you for being a Member of Congress who worked diligently in those hearings to make sure to dismantle the lies. I’m very sure the tape of your questions will not appear on Fox News. They might have deleted it from their video archive, just to make sure it never accidentally pops up. I’m quite sure they hope that your examination never sees the light of day. And everyone should check it out. It’s on your YouTube page, right, the video of that?
Alan: Yes, we have the most-watched YouTube channel of any Member of Congress, something I’m proud of. It’s RepAlanGrayson. We have one video with five million views. I think Lady Gaga would be proud of [a video] with five million views.
Ari: Was that your questioning of one of the banking regulators?
Alan: Yes, the questioning of the Federal Reserve’s Inspector General. The Federal Reserve had handed out a trillion dollars in the 18 months before I questioned her. I asked her who got the money. She said, “I don’t know.”
Ari: Well, that’s what’s amazing about what got the 5 million views. It wasn’t Miley Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball naked that got 5 million views; it was questioning a banking regulator that gets 5 million views on your channel. And I mean, everyone should check it out, if you just want to hear the entire Benghazi scandal dismantled. You clocked in under 5 minutes, I think you had time to spare there.
Alan: Four minutes and eleven seconds. A new world record.
Ari: You had 49 [seconds left]. You should have dropped the mic and been like, “I’m not going to yield back, I’m just going to drop the mic and make you sit for 49 seconds, because it’s more valuable than making you listen to my Republican colleagues. But I understand decorum, at a certain point. Thank you for joining us, Rep. Grayson.
Alan: My pleasure. Thank you.
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I don’t know what they have to say.
It makes no difference anyway.
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
No matter what it is,
Or who commenced it,
I’m against it!
Your proposition may be good,
But let’s have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
And even when you’ve changed it,
Or condensed it,
I’m against it!
I’m opposed to it.
On general principles,
I’m opposed to it!
(He’s opposed to it)
(In fact, he says he’s opposed to it!)
For months before my son was born,
I used to yell from night to morn,
“Whatever it is, I’m against it!”
And I’ve kept yelling,
Since I first commenced it,
“I’m against it!”
Groucho Marx, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It” (1932)