Florida Rep. Alan Grayson at a 2009 congressional hearing. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File )
The work of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Talk Points—as the new committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, would be more accurately named—began in earnest Friday, as the seven Republican members met for the first time with Speaker John Boehner, and then among themselves.
In protest of Republican rules granting Chairman Trey Gowdy unilateral subpoena power, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has yet to appoint minority members. Democrats received no guarantee they will be allowed access to interview witnesses before public testimony is given.
Regardless of Democratic participation, there is no doubt this committee is, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, a “political stunt”—simply the latest attempt by Republicans to convert tragedy into scandal.
The process will undoubtedly waste millions of dollars and thousands of hours, ultimately to reach the same conclusion as investigations conducted by the Accountability Review Board, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
This is reflected by the list of ostensibly damning questions Chairman Gowdy intends to ask, whose answers (not so damning) have been known for months.
While many progressives have argued for a boycott of the process, that would be a colossal error. 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.
The critical question is: Whom should Democrats appoint as ranking member of the committee?
The answer, to me, is crystal clear: Florida Representative Alan Grayson.
The pugnacious former litigator has demonstrated the exact skill set needed to cut through the Republican mythology, the work ethic necessary to fully immerse himself in the issue, and the temperament to weather the blistering attacks sure to come from the conservative media.
In the aftermath of the Iraq War, Grayson’s courtroom prowess resulted in millions of dollars in judgments against war profiteers. This skill was on display in September when the congressman used his five minutes as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee to dismantle conservative Benghazi mythology while questioning Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy:
Too often members of Congress waste their limited time in the committee room on questions that are nothing more than self-congratulatory statements. Grayson has never demonstrated the compunction for these sorts of legislative prerogatives.
Even worse are when hearings devolve into meandering soliloquies that never provide any relevant information. Grayson has a clear track record, demonstrated during his tenure Finance Committee, of asking questions designed to craft specific narratives and elicit from witnesses—both friendly and hostile—clear answers.
Trey Gowdy has cast himself as prosecutor, necessitating Democrats provide a countervailing force focused solely on the truth. It’s this talent Democrats need on the select committee on Benghazi—one for which Grayson’s gift is well-proven.