Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) used a House hearing on the deadly Benghazi, Libya attacks to slam his fellow members of Congress and to apologize to testifying State Department officials whom he said have been “used as a ruse” for partisan attacks.
“I want to first start by apologizing to the deputy secretaries because you have been used as a ruse,” Ackerman said during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “You are being used as foils to the conflicting intentions of some people on our committee and others in Washington for partisan political purposes and are not here really to explain how we can work together more cooperatively as Americans to make things better.”
Ackerman, who did not run for re-election in November after announcing his decision to retire, said he fears Congress has become a “partisan bickering bunch of grousing old people trying to exploit whatever we can to our political advantage.”
“We’ve become people who want to exploit any kind of national calamity to the political advantage of our party,” Ackerman said. “And the public is sick and tired of it. As they should be.”
He suggested Republicans reexamine their approach, saying, “the voters didn’t reject your policies, they rejected your attitude.”
He said the political discourse has become poisoned, particularly as directed toward President Barack Obama with people who “refer to him in such vile terms. Trying to take down and disqualify an admin as being illegitimate.”
“Trying to quibble around here on this particular [Benghazi] issue of the narrative rather than how we work together to make things better, to quibble over somebody said a particular word or didn’t use the right word, rather than figure out how to avoid the mistakes that might been made to not lose American lives in the future,” he said.
Ackerman also spoke up in defense of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was originally slated to testify herself before the committee before sustaining a concussion after fainting during a stomach virus.
“Derogatorily looking at the secretary of state who has worked herself to the bone to the point of dehydration and exhaustion…does a disservice to the job she has done in the name of all of us,” he said.
Ackerman said he personally has disagreed with presidents, but once policy has been set try to make it work “because the failure of a president is the failure of a nation.”
“We’ve come here to either play defense or offense and defend our point of view rather than do what’s right in the name of our country,” he said.