There were several oddities about the House Oversight Committee's Benghazi hearing last week, but one of the unanswered questions related to Chairman Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) choice of witnesses. Yesterday, on "Meet the Press," this grew even more problematic.
The hearing was supposed to be about the committee getting more answers about the attack, but Issa chose not to invite former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a veteran diplomat from the Reagan and Bush administrations, who helped oversee the independent investigation into the events in Benghazi. If the goal was to get more information, why not ask Pickering to appear?
Issa said yesterday, "Ambassador Pickering, his people and he refused to come before our committee." Pickering, who was seated next to Issa at the time, said the far-right congressman was lying. "I said the day before the hearings, I was willing to appear to come to the very hearings that he excluded me from."
So it would appear that Mr. Issa said something he knew to be untrue. I mention this, of course, because we've been told that saying something untrue on a Sunday show -- deliberately or not -- is deeply scandalous, and reason to keep someone from positions of power and authority. So why the congressman say Pickering "refused to come before our committee" when that's the opposite of the truth?
Issa's response was even more amusing:
"The fact is, we don't want to have some sort of a stage show. We had fact witnesses. They testified. We have the Ambassador and Admiral Mullen who conducted and oversaw the [independent review]. We're inviting them on Monday. We'll go through, not in front of the public, but in a nonpartisan way."
Oh, really. Issa was so excited by the prospect of last week's hearing that his staff made movie posters to help promote it, and made sure it received all kinds of media coverage and live feeds for the public. But when it comes to getting information from the two respected officials -- with experience in Republican administrations -- who oversaw an independent investigation of the crisis Issa is interested in, the committee chairman doesn't want "a stage show' and doesn't want the public to see the testimony.
If Republicans want Americans to take their Benghazi conspiracy theories seriously, maybe they shouldn't have Issa leading the crusade.