The US Congress has a number of disappointing members who grab the spotlight so frequently that it is easy to imagine that they define the institution.
But they are not always definitional.
That is because the House also has a few exceptional members who step into the spotlight only when it is necessary—and who, when they take that step, bring a measure of honor to otherwise desultory affairs.
Hour after hour, at each and every necessary point, Cummings intervened—with appropriate and righteous indignation—to challenge the excesses of his conservative colleagues.
The Republicans kept him busy.
No one doubted that a session focusing on former secretary of state Hillary Clinton would see the most disappointing members of the committee embarrass themselves and the Congress.
And so they did.
The questions from committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, and his minions were for the most part repeats of discredited campaign claims. Never mind that the basic premises advanced by the Republicans Thursday were rejected by the American people in 2012. After hearing a steady stream of Republican criticism of the administration’s response to the tragic events that led to the death of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, voters reelected President Obama and Vice President Biden with a 5 million popular vote margin and a 332-206 Electoral College landslide.
Obama and Biden are not running in 2016. But Clinton is.
Gowdy’s hearing developed such a sharp partisan edge that Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Carl Bernstein compared the “reckless” and “abusive” questioning with the approach seen during the “red-scare” circuses organized by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s.
Things got so bad that, toward the end of the almost 11-hour hearing, Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, D-California, apologized to Clinton “for my Republican colleagues who apparently want to write your answers for you, or testify for you because I think it fits into their outlandish narrative of what happened.”