Bill Press: Issa exposed on Benghazi

Anne Wernikoff

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is one of the most powerful committees in Congress. As the House’s watchdog committee, with almost unlimited investigative authority, it can be used as a force for good, as it was under former Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) when it targeted waste of taxpayer dollars in government contracting, exposed the illegal business practices of Enron and held pharmaceutical companies accountable for high prices of prescription drugs. 

Or, it can be used as a political sledgehammer, which is what it’s become under Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

Indeed, under Issa, the Oversight Committee has morphed from its primary mission of tracking down waste, fraud and abuse to Issa’s personal mission of searching for major “scandals” in the Obama administration — all to zero effect. Even repeated hearings on the Internal Revenue Service, for example, did not prove Issa’s charges that the IRS targeting of some political organizations was limited to conservative groups and directed from IRS headquarters in Washington or from the White House itself. And Issa’s war on those responsible for problems with the rollout of HealthCare.gov collapsed once administration officials fixed the website.

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But nowhere is Issa’s political agenda more apparent than in his relentless exploitation of the attack on our compound in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. And nowhere has his recklessness with the truth been more exposed. 

Less than a month after the attack, Issa held the first of several hearings on Benghazi. According to the committee’s own press release, the hearing proved “that the attacks were not sparked by a protest of a YouTube video, contrary to claims made by Obama Administration officials.” From the very beginning, Issa and other House Republicans insisted the attack in Benghazi was a carefully planned assault by al Qaeda, and that administration officials were lying about it in order to protect the president’s claim that al Qaeda’s leadership had been decimated. 

But, in a lengthy report published on Dec. 29, The New York Times refuted that claim. After months of on-the-ground investigation by reporters in Libya, the Times found no evidence of involvement by al Qaeda in the assault. It was waged, instead, by local militants, including some members of militias we had helped in their efforts to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Not only that, concluded the Times, contrary to “claims by some members of Congress,” the attack “was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”

Clearly, under Issa, the House Oversight Committee has failed to meet the first principle of its mission statement: “Americans have a right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent.” Issa has instead wasted money, devoting a year and a half to manufacturing a major scandal about Benghazi, only to be exposed by The New York Times as fanning a pack of lies. 

We now know the truth about Benghazi. It’s what the administration’s been saying all along. The Emperor Issa wears no clothes.  

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.