Earlier this week, it became clear that Democrats on the Republicans' Benghazi committee are out of patience. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) accidental honesty may have been the final straw, but the Dems' frustration has been growing steadily for months.
And so, on Monday, all five committee Democrats wrote to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), warning him that they intend to start unilaterally releasing full, unedited transcripts to the public, providing Americans with information Republicans have tried to keep under wraps.
Dems gave Gowdy five days to get back to them, flagging potentially sensitive information that may need to be redacted. “We do not take this action lightly," they said. "We have held off on taking such action for more than a year, but we will no longer sit and watch selective, out-of-context leaks continue to mischaracterize the testimony the Select Committee has received."
Two days later, Gowdy did, in fact, respond with a lengthy, angry missive. The full, 13-page letter is online here (pdf), and though it's difficult to excerpt, there was one claim raised by the GOP congressman that stood out for me. Responding to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Gowdy wrote:
"[I]t is you, not the Republicans, who has selectively leaked information to promote your own false narrative -- that this Committee is political -- or protect Democrat [sic] political figures, when it is a fact Democrats and you are the ones who have treated the Committee as political from the outset."
Or put another way, Gowdy, annoying by accusations that he and his team have been responsible to deceptive leaks, effectively seems to be arguing, "I know you are but what am I?"
And in some cases, such a response is acceptable, even warranted. If Gowdy were falsely accused by Democrats of doing something Democrats are themselves guilty of, it stands to reason the far-right congressman might try to set the record straight by turning the tables on the hypocrisy.
But in this case, reality points in a different direction. There's documented proof of Republicans on the Benghazi panel selectively leaking misleading information to the press. Indeed, it's happened more than once. A few months ago, Gowdy adopted a tone in which he appeared to "wink at the e-mail leaks," tacitly admitting that he's done precisely what Democrats have accused him of doing.
If Gowdy wants to keep up appearances, and pretend the taxpayer-funded election scheme is a legitimate exercise, fine. It's hard to take such posturing seriously, but I suppose it's a stretch to expect the committee's chairman to be as candid as the Majority Leader was.
But to deny the existence of deceptive media leaks is foolish, and only reinforces the worst fears about the entire political exercise.