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May 07, 2014 11:44 AM Boycotting the Benghazi!-Fest

By Ed Kilgore

John Boehner has predictably rejected requests from House Democrats that any select committee set up to “investigate” Benghazi! be composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. It would have seven GOPers and five Democrats, with one-time Tea Party favorite Rep. Trey Gowdy of SC wielding the gavel. And so the question will soon come to a head: should House Democrats boycott said select committee to deny it legitimacy?

TNR’s Brian Beutler more or less says yes (though the text of his article is not half as adamant as the headline his editors assigned; I’ve been there with TNR myself, Brian). Interestingly enough, Beutler argues that a boycott would be the Democratic equivalent of Mitch McConnell’s famous 2009 decision to make unconditional all-out opposition to the Obama adminstration’s agenda the touchstone of GOP strategy, which is now viewed as a devilishly successful gambit.

Generally speaking, I’m not so sure as many of my progressive brethren that maximum counter-polarization is a no-brainer for Democrats in every conceivable situation. In the case of the Benghazi!-fest, the dilemma is this: the best argument for a boycott is that Republicans have yet to articulate an objective for the probe beyond revelations that don’t amount to a hill of beans even if they are true (e.g., various elements of the administration tried to “spin” the events in a positive way; the White House/State Department/CIA gave undue credence to the idea that the violent protests were mainly “about” the Innocence of Muslims video; etc. etc.). All along, the underlying GOP J’Accuse! seems to be that the administration was ignoring an upsurge of al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist violence, the relative absence of which since then would seem to be a show-trial-stopper if the inquisitors hadn’t already moved along to second- and third-order questions about who “covered up” what when. But a boycott would give congressional Republicans a fresh reason to rant about these second- and third-order questions, and indeed, to inflate them into a partisan Democratic effort to “hide” Benghazi! secrets.

So the Democratic decision about how to handle these “investigations” is really a judgment call. Is it better to show up every day and illustrate there is no there there? Or to encourage media to ignore the madness by ignoring the madness? I’m not sure, for the same reason I’m not sure how best to deal with scattered UFO “sightings” or “new findings” about the JFK assassination. Conspiracy-mongers are going to monger, and haterz are going to hate.

UPDATE: Shocker! Trey Gowdy says his select committee investigation might need to run until 2016!

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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