A somewhat bizarre series of comments surfaced on Sunday during an appearance by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Graham is determined to hold up confirmation of two of the President’s national security advisors until he “gets to the bottom” of the Benghazi debacle. As Graham said on that program:
“In a constitutional democracy, we need to know what our commander-in-chief was doing at a time of great crisis, and this White House has been stonewalling the Congress, and I’m going to do everything I can to get to the bottom of this so we’ll learn from our mistakes and hold this president accountable for what I think is tremendous disengagement at a time of national security crisis,” he said.
At the Senate hearing, Panetta testified that he and Dempsey were meeting with Obama when they first learned of the Libya assault. He said the president told them to deploy forces as quickly as possible.
Graham asked whether Panetta spoke again to Obama after that first meeting. Panetta said no, but that the White House was in touch with military officials and aware of what was happening. At one point, Graham asked Panetta if he knew what time Obama went to sleep that night. The Pentagon chief said he did not.
While this assuredly smacks of extortion, it would seem that even though Panetta and Dempsey have already answered Graham’s questions the man is determined to grandstand and draw attention to himself while he tries to make political hay. (He wants to know what time the President went to bed, for Pete’s sake!) It’s hard to know what is on this man’s tiny mind, except to try to continue to embarrass the Administration in the name of the “families” of those who were killed on that dreadful day. It certainly is not designed to help the government to do its job by moving on to the serious problems facing the nation. It would seem that the questions have been answered, in so far as they can be answered, and that nothing except Graham’s ego and his political future are served by continuing to twist a knife in painful wounds.
I am reminded of Henry Adams’ hatred of the Senate after the experience his grandfather and great-grandfather had trying to serve the nation as President only to have the Senate repeatedly exercise its power in opposition to the will of the President of the United States. I wrote about this some time ago. Granted, Adams had a bias, but he is certainly correct in pointing out that the Senate, under our Constitution, has tremendous power if they choose to exercise it. And with no term limits that power simply increases.
The founders were so worried that the executive would have too much power that they effectively handcuffed anyone in that office by giving the oversight powers to the Senate to check the President’s every move. One look at the Constitution convinces us that the writers gave considerably more attention to the role of the Senate than they did the President or the House of Representatives. This is almost certainly because they saw the Senate as America’s version of the House of Lords, an elite group of landed (wealthy) men who would have the best interest of the country at heart and could not be easily swayed by personal motives. We have seen how that turned out.
In any event, Graham’s histrionics are misplaced and entirely self-serving. He should get back to work and see what he can do to contribute to the pressing problems that face a nation during difficult economic times with a globe that continues to warm as he vents his spleen and draws attention to himself.