Better late than never.
Had it been up to me, there would have been a special select House committee — with a special prosecutor — to look into all aspects of the Benghazi scandal a year or more ago. I understand the pressures that were on GOP Speaker John Boehner not to make this move: The House committees that had been looking into Benghazi — the attack on sovereign American territory, the death of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and the Obama administration's deceptive, politically-driven efforts to cover up its failures — wanted to protect their jurisdiction and retain a role in the probe.
But a divided investigation and hearings that by their very format don't allow for sustained questioning or the shaping of a coherent narrative have hurt the quest to get the truth of what happened at Benghazi from the start. The decision this week to form a select committee headed by the very impressive Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina means we may finally get some real answers.
I hope Mr. Boehner resists the calls from top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to have equal representation on the committee. In my opinion, that's a formula for paralysis.
Let's face it, the Democrats and the Obama administration desperately want the whole issue of Benghazi to just go away. They have done and will continue to do everything they can to obstruct and cover up. President Obama himself is even more desperate to make this go away because as more details come out, the more egg there is on the administration's face.
The same is true of Hillary Clinton, whether she runs for president in 2016 or not. Her quote when testifying about Benghazi to a Senate panel last May — "What difference does it make?" — is one we're going to be hearing so much we will all grow sick of it. It's the worst comment she could possibly make. It's hard to me to believe that such an experienced politician did not have the wherewithal to see how that quote could come back to haunt her.
Democrats will argue that the whole incident has been thoroughly investigated, but to my mind there are a wealth of questions that the select committee can explore. Here, for Mrs. Clinton's benefit, are just a few ways the select committee could "make a difference" in our understanding of Benghazi.
First and foremost, this is not and never has been about some video; it's about a deadly terrorist attack on sovereign American territory that the administration didn't anticipate and has never told the truth about since. There are still major unanswered questions about security in Benghazi that night, why our ambassador was in such a dangerous place, and why the security he needed was not there to protect him.
And for all the Democratic complaints, there are still big questions about the "talking points" and how the administration tried to shape the story. As we so often see, the biggest mistakes come when you try to cover up what happened, especially when you do so just weeks before a presidential election. This was the Obama White House's "October surprise" and I think they panicked and let the political people take over the narrative. It's been a consistent pattern with this White House — cover up and find anyone beside President Obama to blame.
I truly hope this select committee will also get in to the question of justice. The administration promised to track down those responsible for the attack. Why hasn't anyone been brought to justice? What has the FBI been doing to get to the bottom of this? There are reports that we had drones circling over Benghazi in real time recording the attack; why haven't those tapes been made available to congressional investigators?
What "matters" is that American territory was attacked. What "matters" is that four brave Americans are dead. What "matters" is that the American people have the right to know what really happened and this White House and State Department are denying them that right. The whole matter would have been over if the administration had chosen to tell the truth when it knew it, instead of frustrating every legitimate effort by Congress to get answers.
Benghazi is not and never was a sideshow. The political ramifications of this scandal could be tremendous, both for the 2014 and 2016 elections. Now, with a select committee, an impressive chairman and the possibility of a special prosecutor to conduct a proper investigation, the fun has just begun.
• Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and www.washingtontimes.com.