What's even worse than the Benghazi committee? The House science committee.
Last Thursday, the nation watched with a mix of amusement and horror as the House Benghazi committee spent 11 hours grilling Hillary Clinton on a bizarre farrago of issues, many of which bore only tangential connection to the Benghazi attack.
Over the past few weeks, the political narrative seems to have shifted from "Clinton in trouble" to "congressional witch hunt seeks to take down Clinton." Between McCarthy's accidental truth telling, an ex-staffer confirming the worst reports about the committee, and another House Republican conceding the obvious, it has become clear that the Benghazi committee is a thoroughly partisan political endeavor. Opinion has turned, but Republicans are trapped.
The thing is: The Benghazi committee is not even the worst committee in the House. I'd argue that the House science committee, under the chairmanship of Lamar Smith (R-TX), deserves that superlative for its open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions.
The science committee's modus operandi is similar to the Benghazi committee's — sweeping, catchall investigations, with no specific allegations of wrongdoing or clear rationale, searching through private documents for out-of-context bits and pieces to leak to the press, hoping to gain short-term political advantage — but it stands to do more lasting long-term damage.
In both cases, the investigations have continued long after all questions have been answered. (There were half a dozen probes into Benghazi before this one.) In both cases, the chair has drifted from inquiry to inquisition. But with Benghazi, the only threat is to the reputation of Hillary Clinton, who has the resources to defend herself. With the science committee, it is working scientists being intimidated, who often do not have the resources to defend themselves, and the threat is to the integrity of the scientific process in the US. It won't take much for scientists to get the message that research into politically contested topics is more hassle than it's worth.
The article continues with plenty of examples, then concludes with this:
The science committee, Fox News, the Daily Caller, climate deniers, CEI — at this point, it's all one partisan operation, sharing information and strategies.
Republican radicalization has already laid waste to many of the written and unwritten rules that once governed American politics. The use of congressional committees as tools of partisan intimidation is only a chapter in that grim story.
But the science committee is going after individual scientists, who rarely have the resources on hand to defend themselves from unexpected political attack. It is doing so without any rationale related to the constitutional exercise of its oversight powers — not with a false rationale, but without any stated rationale, no allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse — in service of an effort to suppress inconvenient scientific results and score partisan political points against the executive branch.
The federal government is an enormous supporter of scientific research, to the country's great and enduring benefit, though that support is now under sustained attack. If such funding comes with strings, with the threat that the wrong inquiry or results could bring down a congressional inquisition, researchers are likely to shy away from controversial subjects. The effects on the US scientific community, and on America's reputation as a leader in science, could be dire, lingering on well past the 2016 election.
As if we didn't have enough to worry about, huh? But this is what happens when you put faith over reality and politics over country.
Republicans saw - and still see - racism as an opportunity to make political gains. They saw the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression (on their watch, no less) as an opportunity to make Americans so unhappy they'd vote Republican again in despair. They saw the death of four Americans in Benghazi as an opportunity to attack the likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.
They even committed treason, attempting to sabotage America's side in the negotiations with Iran, for political advantage. There seems to be absolutely nothing Republicans won't do if they think it will benefit them politically (and that includes getting them campaign funds from wealthy individuals and corporations).
How much damage will the Republican Party do to America before conservatives come to their senses? Or will they bring America down before that happens?
PS. My thanks to Jim Harris for the link.