Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) during the House Foreign Affairs Committee's hearing on Syria Wednesday got into a tense back and forth with Secretary of State John Kerry after the congressman brought up last year's deadly Benghazi terror attack to question the White House’s credibility on foreign affairs.
“The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people,” Duncan said, “due to unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago.”
He went on to mention some of the other major scandals that have plagued the Obama administration, including the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups and the Department of Justice’s monitoring of the Associated Press.
“Bottom line is there’s a need for accountability and trust-building from the administration,” he said. “The administration has a credibility issue.”
“Mr. Kerry, your predecessor asked, ‘What difference does it make now?’” he continued, referring then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s infamous hearing outburst earlier this year. “Well, this is the difference, Mr. Secretary."
“These issues call into question the accountability of this administration,” Duncan said. “Its commitment to the personnel on the ground, and the judgment that it uses when, making these determinations. The American people deserve answers before they move forward talking about military involvement in Syria.”
Duncan then produced a small photo of U.S. Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, one of the four Americans killed Sept. 11, 2012 at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
“America deserves answers before we send another man or woman the caliber of Ty Woods in harm’s way especially in another country’s civil war,” the congressman said.
He continued, directly addressing Secretary Kerry.
“Mr. Kerry, you have never been one that has advocated for anything other than caution when involving U.S. forces in past conflicts. The same is true for the president and the vice president,” he said. “Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating that you would abandon caution in favor for pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?”
Duncan then asked Kerry whether the White House has been involved in any way in arming Syrian rebels and whether it has transferred arms to Syria via Libya.
Secretary Kerry was not amused with Duncan’s line of questioning and responded by citing his and his colleagues’ (i.e. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey) service records.
Rep. Duncan tried to respond to Kerry’s initial response, but the Secretary of State was determined: “I’m going to finish, congressman! I am going to finish!”
“When I was in the United States Senate,” Kerry continued, “I supported military action in any number of occasions, including Grenada, Panama, I can run a list of them. And I’m not going to sit here and be told by you that I don’t have a sense of what the judgment is with respect to this.
He added, visibly annoyed: “We’re talking about people being killed by gas and you want to go talk about Benghazi and Fast and Furious!”
The South Carolina congressman interjected to clarify that he has “sympathy” for those who have been hurt in the Syrian civil war, but repeated his point that the U.S. should move forward cautiously.
Kerry said he disagreed with the congressman’s characterization of the White House’s approach to the Syrian conflict.
“This is not about getting into Syria’s civil war,” Kerry later added. “This is about enforcing the principle that people shouldn’t be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity!”
“Let’s draw the proper distinction here, congressman,” Kerry said, “we don’t deserve to drag this into yet another Benghazi discussion when the real issue here is whether or not the Congress is going to stand up for international norms!”
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Featured image AP photos.