Boehner names Trey Gowdy chairman of Benghazi select committee

He’s got fifteen years of prosecutorial experience at both the federal and state levels. (Fun fact: I was watching an old episode of “Forensic Files” on HLN a week or two ago and who popped up onscreen but a young, dark-haired Trey Gowdy, discussing a murder case he’d won in South Carolina.) He’s also been out in front of the caucus in accusing the White House of Benghazi cover-ups: He’s the man who claimed last summer that they’d been giving CIA agents linked to the incident new identities to hide them from House investigators, and he told Greta Van Susteren just a few days ago that he has evidence that the White House is deliberately withholding documents related to the attack.

Boehner’s statement:

“With four of our countrymen killed at the hands of terrorists, the American people want answers, accountability, and justice. Trey Gowdy is as dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come. His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel. I know he shares my commitment to get to the bottom of this tragedy and will not tolerate any stonewalling from the Obama administration. I plan to ensure he and his committee have the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts. This is a big job, but Rep. Gowdy has the confidence of this conference, and I know his professionalism and grit will earn him the respect of the American people.”

Smart politics twice over. Part of the reason Boehner agreed to the select committee was to unify the party ahead of the midterms; after Ben Rhodes’s e-mail became public, refusing to form a committee would have been another flashpoint between the party establishment and the grassroots to go along with amnesty and increasingly tepid opposition to ObamaCare. It stands to reason that if you’re going to do something to placate your base, you might as well choose a conservative in good standing for chairman too. If he’d appointed a centrist and the committee came up with nothing, righties would have accused him of a whitewash. They can’t do that with Gowdy in charge, and if Gowdy comes up with nothing too, then Boehner can distance himself from it by saying it was largely a tea-party production all along.

The other reason it’s smart politics is that not only is Gowdy a respected prosecutor, he’s consistently one of the most dynamic members at House hearings. (You’ve watched enough clips of him on this site to know that.) Boehner doesn’t know what he’s going to get by way of evidence but he will insist on some political payoff from this ahead of the midterms, and Gowdy’s just the guy to deliver that. You want clips of John Kerry or Hillary Clinton sweating under a tough cross-examination to dominate the day’s news cycle on cable? He’ll do that for you better than virtually anyone else.

One question, though. Will Democrats participate in the committee? Here’s Adam Schiff telling Chris Wallace yesterday on FNS that he thinks the party should boycott. I hate to admit it but that’s sound strategy. They’re taking a risk in doing it: If the GOP turns up compelling evidence of Obama’s or Hillary’s negligence on the night of the attack, the fact that Democrats refused to take part in the investigation will make them look complicit in the cover-up and whitewash. If the GOP doesn’t turn up something compelling, though, the boycott will make it easier for Democrats to argue that it was a kangaroo court all along that the public should either pay no attention to or actively punish Republicans for organizing. In fact, Dems can cite their boycott as a reason for the public to downplay or ignore any evidence that Gowdy does uncover. E.g., “We knew Republicans would be grossly unfair to the administration and blow their findings out of all proportion. That’s why we didn’t participate.” It’s a way to delegitimize the effort, which is the whole ballgame for them right now.