Events are still unfolding, but everything that's happened so far today points to the likelihood that House Democrats will protest the Select Committee on Benghazi, leaving Republicans to re-re-re-re-re-re-investigate the 2012 attacks, and their aftermath, in partisan fashion.
When initially contemplated, the idea was met with swift derision by some members of the commentariat. Ron Fournier, a tribune for bipartisan comity, thinks a boycott would be an error.
And the broader vibe is that a boycott wouldn't be a sporting move. But that argument is incorrect. A boycott would be excellent politics, and Democrats have none other than Mitch McConnell to thank for the insight.
The White House will have to decide how cooperative it wants to be with the Select Committee, and perhaps if they're too stubborn, they will appear defensive and evasive, and the public will conclude that they have something to hide. But the Democrats in Congress aren't on trial here. And what they're doing by prefiguring a boycott with olive branches to bipartisanship comes right out of the McConnell playbook.
After the 2008 election, McConnell attempted very successfully to convince his rattled conference that, when all was said and done, Republicans should oppose the Democratic agenda unanimously, because the public would confer immediate legitimacy on even nominally bipartisan accomplishments. Unanimous GOP opposition would tip off conservatives, and the public at large, that something was amiss, and that would divide Democrats and leave their initiatives politically hobbled.
It didn't work well enough to kill the Affordable Care Act or deny Obama a second term, but the law's underwater favorable ratings are an enduring testament to McConnell's political wisdom. Boycotting the select committee would discredit it in a similar way.
It's still not certain that's what Democrats will do, but the dialogue between the parties today points in that direction. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi requested that the committee be divided equally between Democrats and Republicans, and that the two parties share power over information, witness lists, and subpoenas. Republicans are poised to reject her requests.
Gowdy on Pelosi calling for equal R/D breakdown on #benghazi cmte: We're the majority right now. We're the majority for a reason— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) May 6, 2014
Gowdy is the committee's designated chairman.
Republicans are responding to allegations of partisanship with a tu quoque defense, drawing a comparison to the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which Pelosi created in 2007 and Republicans dismantled in 2011. Democrats enjoyed a 9-6 majority on that committee. But they rightly note that Pelosi launched the climate change committee at the beginning of the 110th Congress, and that it served as a supplement to standing committees like Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and others. This, by contrast, is an investigative select committee, usurping and consolidating the investigations of standing committees like Oversight and Armed Services, to probe an outside event. And as far as appeals to hypocrisy go, it's not as if Republicans took the formation of the climate change panel lying down.
It's premature to conclude that Pelosi and Dems will thus boycott the committee, but it looks like that's where we're headed.
Brian Beutler is a senior editor at The New Republic.