I have written a good deal about Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a conservative Republican who has broken with the tendency of most in Congress to simply recite talking points.
Chaffetz is a throwback to the House and Senate members of old, who arrived in Washington with partisan attachments and ideologies but not with straitjackets. There can be no doubt of his conservatism, or of his Republicanism. Yet, Chaffetz does not merely echo conventional conservative or Republican wisdom.
He says things. Controversial things.
That makes him a bit of a rarity in Congress: an interesting, and perhaps useful, member.
When a member of Congress is willing to speak boldly on big issues — as Chaffetz did when he suggested in late November that it might be time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan — he or she is likely to take some hits.
The congressman was asked recently about reopening an investigation into the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
Chaffetz expressed sympathy with the activist from the group We Are Change Utah, which argues that what happened on 9/11 "was a false-flag terror attack, that the buildings came down with internally placed demolition…"
After hearing the activist’s argument for an investigation "to find out why it was done and who was behind it," Chaffetz responded: "I appreciate good Americans being vigilent."
Chaffetz also noted that he has met with Steven Jones, one of the leading advocates of the "9/11 Truth" movement. Chaffetz said Jones had done "interesting work."
Here’s the actual exchange:
Q: (Do you favor) a reopening into the investigation of 9/11?
CHAFFETZ: Well there’s a lot we still need to learn. Of course we want to look into that issue, look at every aspect of it… Who was the BYU professor?… Steve Jones, yeah I’ve met with him. He’s done some interesting work.
Q: Have you given much thought to the possibility it was a false flag terrorist attack on 9/11?
CHAFFETZ: Well I know there’s still a lot to learn about what happened and what didn’t happen, we should be vigilant and continue to investigate that, absolutely.
The reports of what Chaffetz said earned him quick criticism and ridicule, mostly from liberal bloggers and radio and television hosts.
This controversy is reminiscent of one that, ultimately, forced veteran environmental activist Van Jones to resign a White House position as Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality.
Before his resignation, Jones was attacked for weeks on television and radio by Glenn Beck for having signed, many years earlier, a petition calling for reopening the 9/11 investigation. Beck said Jones had signed a "9/11 truther" petition and had thus involved himself with "truthers" who he described as "truly disturbed people… a ‘destroy the government, scorched Earth’ kind of people."