When it comes to amazing quotes, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) has an impressive track record. It was the Texas Republican who argued in February, for example, that it’s “immoral” to extend jobless aid to “long-term unemployments.” It followed on the heels of Sessions’ argument that “messaging” is more important than governing.
But according to two reporters – one from Fox News, one from the L.A. Times – the congressman was in especially rare form on the House floor last night. Responding to Democratic allegations that the new Republican Benghazi committee is a “witch hunt,” Sessions argued, “Well, Mr. Speaker, that must mean there is a witch somewhere.” (Update: the video of the comments is below.)
Such a sentiment makes for a terrific Monty Python sketch, but it would appear the congressman is confused about the nature of witch hunts – looking to find a witch does not mean there is a witch to be found – though the comment tells us quite a bit about how Sessions and his party are approaching their latest Benghazi inquiry.
Indeed, I hope Sessions and his colleagues might consider yesterday’s fiery floor remarks from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee and a lawmaker who’s sat through quite a few Benghazi hearings.
“Benghazi was a tragedy. We lost four brave Americans that night, and I extend my deepest sympathies to their families.“In my opinion, we honor their memories best by bringing their killers to justice and by working in a bipartisan way to strengthen security for all U.S. personnel overseas. As family members of Ambassador Stevens have stated, ‘What Chris never would have accepted was the idea that his death would be used for political purposes.’“Unfortunately, that is what House Republicans have been doing for the last year and a half.”
Whether or not those who heard Cummings found this emotionally and/or politically satisfying, his comments struck me as interesting.
The standard approach from Democrats is to play defense on Benghazi – they tend to play defense well, mind you, but it’s defense nevertheless. The Democratic message tends to emphasize pesky things like facts: there was no cover-up; there is no conspiracy; the questions Republicans keep asking have already been answered; there’s no evidence to bolster any of the right’s wild-eyed assertions; etc.
What Cummings and some of his other Democratic colleagues suggested yesterday is that the current burden is backwards: Dems shouldn’t be on the defense; Republicans should. They’re the ones exploiting a terrorist attack for partisan gain; they’re the ones raising money on the deaths of four Americans; they’re the ones peddling ridiculous conspiracy theories as an alternative to governing.
They’re the ones, in other words, who should be ashamed of themselves.
Indeed, as Brian Beutler argued persuasively overnight, GOP leaders don’t seem to “believe their own b.s.” They’re occasionally even candid about their true motivations.
Republican political officials say Benghazi is a subject of intense interest for the party’s conservative base of support, who are likely voters in November. “We’re going to use every opportunity we can to highlight it,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. Republicans also see the chance to chip away at the image of Hillary Clinton, the potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who was secretary of state when Benghazi occurred.
What a scam.
Update: By way of my colleagues Tricia McKinney and Will Femia, here’s the video of Sessions’ comments: