Put Alan Grayson on Benghazi panel! Why he's Dems' best option to expose this clown show

Dems can't boycott Benghazi hearings -- so they should follow one writer's great idea: Let Alan Grayson ruin them

By Heather Digby Parton


Published May 19, 2014 11:45AM (EDT)

Alan Grayson         (AP/Evan Vucci)
Alan Grayson (AP/Evan Vucci)

With the latest Benghazi! ™ extravaganza about to begin, the Democrats are faced with a dilemma. Should they boycott the silly hearings, thus leaving the Republicans to put on their pageant unimpeded, or should they join in with a full panel and add legitimacy to the process? The problem seems to be that whether they like it or not, these hearings are going to be covered. And if the press reaction so far tells us anything, they are looking for a show.

This is why they should follow the advice of Ari Rabin-Havt in the American Prospect who says that a boycott would be a "colossal error." He points out the unfortunate reality:

Even with limited power, ceding the committee room to Republicans—not to mention the televised hearings—will only allow them to parade their Benghazi myths unimpeded by relevant facts framed in questions from the minority

Yes, one might expect that the media would be able to straighten out all the factual misrepresentations and downright lies, but considering the fact that even Lara Logan and the venerable "60 Minutes" imploding with a full-fledged hoax did little to put the story to bed, it's highly unlikely that allowing the GOP to harangue and harass Hillary Clinton will put an end to this phony scandal.

In fact, it's long past time the Democrats understood that they are not as successful as they think they are at letting the Republicans hang themselves. They seem to believe that because all their friends and wealthy donors think the GOP clown show is appalling that it always reads that way in the rest of the country. "Smell-test" scandal-mongering, where people begin to think there must be something to it or they couldn't get away with spending all this time and money pursuing it, takes its toll.

Nobody in American politics has dealt with this phenomenon more than the Clintons. And the one thing they were known for back in the day, always, was to never let charges go unanswered. They understood very well that expecting the press and the people to see through such inanity and recognize it for the rank partisan hack job it is is a fool's game.

Still, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to try to deal with a three-ring circus by convening an academic seminar. In order to perform their role properly, they need to engage the issue at hand with intelligence and a grasp of the facts but also an ability to guide the questioning in a way that illuminates the absurdity of the hearings as a whole. And yes, they need to provide easy sound bites for the media so they have something to run with.

Luckily, as Rabin-Havt points out, they have the perfect person right there in the Congress to do it: the original "congressman with guts," Alan Grayson of Florida.

Perhaps people don't realize that Alan Grayson isn't just another lawyer/congressman. He's an experienced litigator who fought whistle-blower fraud cases aimed at military contractors. The Wall Street Journal characterized him in 2006 as "waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq." And he was very successful at it. As a politician Grayson is usually seen as a pugnacious fighter always at the ready with a pithy put-down on cable news shows. His floor speeches are often fiery indictments of his political opponents and the power elite.

But that's not why the Democrats should tap him for the job. As notable as all those characteristics are, they are not where Grayson's true talent lies. He is a master at the task of committee questioning. During his first term as a member of the Financial Services Committee he practically had bankers whimpering on the hot seat and he took on everyone from Ben Bernanke to Timothy Geithner, eliciting important information. Unlike the vaunted prosecutor the GOP has tapped to lead the inquiry, Trey Gowdy (who specializes in browbeating and histrionic questioning), Grayson is never rude and he isn't dismissive or insulting. He is serious, composed and extremely well prepared. And when he has the floor he is completely in control.

And yes, choosing him would please the Democratic base and infuriate the Republicans. That should be a feature, not a bug. The Republicans want a show. Grayson will definitely give them one -- but it won't be the kind of show they're looking for. He'll elicit the kinds of responses from the Democratic witnesses that are needed to make their case and he'll skewer the conservative scandal-mongers with the facts.

Rabin-Havt had originally suggested that Grayson simply be on the committee as a member, but he and other progressives, including Credo Mobile, are now suggesting that he should be the lone Democrat assigned. It would be an uncharacteristically bold and brilliant move for the House Democrats to do it.

Grayson says he's game if they are. Will they have the guts that he has?

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Alan Grayson Benghazi Congress Democrats Editor's Picks Gop Lara Logan Media Criticism Scandal The Right