Trey Gowdy Violated the Golden Rule in the Clinton Benghazi Hearing

Posted on October 26, 2015

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Watching Rep. Trey Gowdy chair the Hillary Clinton Benghazi hearing left me wondering. What I saw and heard on television during that hearing, and what Mr. Gowdy has said on other occasions just didn’t seem to match up. I’m wondering where the disconnect is.

Trey Gowdy is a Christian, a Southern Baptist. In June, speaking to the congregation at the 65,000 member Second Baptist Church in Houston, Gowdy said something with which I heartily agree.

“If you want to change culture, don’t wait on the Supreme Court or anyone else… Changing the hearts and minds in this country is our job,” he declared, speaking of the way Christians should try to influence the direction of our society. “You don’t insult people into changing their minds,” he continued.

You don’t insult people into changing their minds

                                                                                                                         – Trey Gowdy

How profoundly true! That’s an insight I wish every politician and pundit in the land would adopt.

Trey Gowdy

Rep. Trey Gowdy

Then earlier this month, the motives of Republican members the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which Gowdy chairs, came under intense scrutiny. Several Republicans not on the panel, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) made front page news by either strongly implying or stating outright that the basic purpose of the committee was to inflict as much political damage as possible on Hillary Clinton as she seeks to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 2016.

Gowdy strongly asserted that his purpose, and those of his fellow Republican members of the Benghazi panel, were not political at all, but were focused only on uncovering the truth of why four Americans lost their lives when their compound was attacked by militants. He went on to admit to feeling personally hurt that the purity of his motives was being questioned.

“I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life,” Gowdy said. “Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically — at least it is for me.”

Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically

                                                                                                                              – Trey Gowdy

Again, I couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly the way I would expect a Christian to feel.

But then I watched the hearings conducted by Gowdy, in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was grilled relentlessly for almost 11 hours. Gowdy started the hearing by reiterating the purity of the motives of the Republican majority on the panel:

“There are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you,” he told Clinton. “Let me assure you it is not.”

Yet, once the questioning started, it was clear that the hearing was all about Clinton. Most who watched the proceedings on television saw the Republican committee members, including Gowdy, as more inquisitors than investigators. Even fellow conservatives could not escape that conclusion.

For example, Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard came away convinced that “Clinton misled the committee on topics big and small, on issues crucial to the inquiry and irrelevant to it.” Yet he also felt compelled to say that “some Republicans on the panel took gratuitous shots at her, spun personal theories about her motives, and even questioned whether she cared about the fate of the survivors of those attacks.”

Republicans on the panel took gratuitous shots at her, spun personal
theories about her motives, and even questioned whether she cared
about the fate of the survivors of those attacks.

                                                            – Stephen Hayes in the conservative Weekly Standard

Gowdy himself, in his prosecutorial zeal, unleashed a series of attacks on Clinton related to emails she received from a friend not in the government, Sidney Blumenthal. The emphasis on Blumenthal seemed so disconnected from what happened at Benghazi that it appeared to be solely aimed at trying to paint Clinton as having done something discreditable by allowing Blumenthal to have her email address. Clinton herself pointed this out, telling Gowdy, “I don’t know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of the deaths of four Americans.”

The overwhelming impression the hearing made on me, and millions of other viewers, was the level of vitriol and disrespect to which Clinton was subjected by her Republican interrogators, including Chairman Gowdy.

How does the way Gowdy allowed his committee to treat Hillary Clinton square with his proclamation that “attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically”? I’m having great difficulty understanding how anyone, and a Christian especially, could understand that truth, and yet go on to inflict such attacks on someone else, even if that person is a political enemy.

My unease with the way Mr. Gowdy conducted the Benghazi hearing has nothing to do with whether Hillary Clinton told or evaded the truth. In fact, I think the way the questioning was conducted shifted scrutiny from the truthfulness and completeness of her answers to the disrespectful way she was treated. But to me the real issue, from a Christian perspective, is something Jesus said:

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.   (Luke 6:31)

That, it seems to me, is what Trey Gowdy forgot. And he has paid a great price. Millions of people who watched the Benghazi hearing on television came away believing that the questioning of Trey Gowdy’s motives was proved well justified by the way he and his compatriots conducted themselves.

You reap what you sow, the Bible says. In my opinion, the Hillary Clinton Benghazi hearing is a powerful example of exactly that point.

Ron Franklin

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