Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chair of the newly formed select committee to investigate the State Department's handling of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, speaks on his phone as he walks to the Rayburn House Office Building, May 7, 2014.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Asked and answered

In U.S. courtrooms, there’s an objection called “asked and answered.” Roughly speaking, if an attorney has a witness on the stand for an examination, asks a question, and gets an answer, counsel can’t keep asking the same question. Opposing counsel will object.
I’m wondering if Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is familiar with the objection.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said on Sunday morning that, as chair of the newly created select committee on Benghazi, one of the biggest questions he would like to ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is why the United States was still there.
“Why were we still in Benghazi? The British ambassador was almost assassinated. Our facility was attacked twice. There were multiple episodes of violence. We were the last flag flying in Benghazi, and I would like to know why,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The problem is not with the question itself, which is clearly a legitimate point of inquiry when coming to terms with what transpired in Libya 20 months ago. Rather, the problem is that plenty of other lawmakers have thought of this before and the question has already been answered clearly, though Gowdy, for some reason, doesn’t know that.
In the same interview, the South Carolina Republican said he still doesn’t know where President Obama was the night of the 2012 attack, though this question was answered a long time ago, too.
And all of this came just days after Gowdy said he has three main questions he hopes to answer as part of the select committee process, apparently unaware of the fact that all three questions have already been answered.
To be sure, far-right lawmakers may not like the answers. Perhaps they’d prefer an entirely different set of responses. But the fact remains that Republicans have an “asked and answered” problem – they keep asking the same questions as if they’ve forgotten having already asked them.
And while it’s not uncommon for pundits covering lots of stories to occasionally forget the details of a story that unfolded nearly two years ago, Gowdy’s poor memory is more alarming – he is , after all, ostensibly leading the investigation into the terrorist attack. When someone at Fox gets confused, it’s inconsequential; when the head of the select committee doesn’t realize his questions have already been answered, it raises more serious concerns about the basic competency of those leading the probe.
In related Benghazi news, my msnbc colleague Tim Noah had a sharp piece, emphasizing an angle that hasn’t received as much attention it probably deserves.
Deadly violence against U.S. diplomats, sadly, is a frequent occurrence. The State Department counts 86“significant attacks” against diplomatic outposts just in 2012, the year of the Benghazi attack. The death toll from these 2012 attacks was not four, but 24. And this is not a new problem. Since 1970, there have been 521 attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets, killing 500 people. The deadliest of these was not Benghazi but a truck bomb explosion in Nairobi, Kenya that killed 213 people, 12 of them Americans. Since 1977, 66 American diplomats have been killed by terrorists.
If the House GOP truly cared about providing better embassy security, it would create a select committee to investigate this perennial problem, instead of creating one about Benghazi. The question of how to give adequate protection to diplomats stationed in dangerous places has vexed Democratic and Republican administrations alike. (Though it’s already been investigated plenty.)
But of course the GOP doesn’t care about that.
To put it mildly, a week after House Republican leaders decided they wanted yet another committee to examine the attack, the process is off to a very rough, credibility-killing start.