Fred J. Eckert

Forty years ago tomorrow, the ranking minority member on the US Senate’s select committee -- charged with investigating an incident in which five men had broken into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at Washington’s Watergate complex -- asked a question that would become one of the best known refrains in American political history:

“What did the President know -- and when did he know it?”

Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee was a Republican serving on a Democratic-controlled congressional committee investigating a Republican president -- and that memorable question he asked was manifestly a genuine effort to seek the truth about Watergate.

What a contrast between back then and right now!

Does anyone believe that any ranking Democrat -- or any other Democrat on a congressional committee investigating Benghazi -- has demonstrated Howard Baker-like honesty and integrity by making getting to the truth the main goal instead of trying to provide additional cover for the attempted cover-up?

And speaking of contrast: That 40-years-ago breaking-and-entering scandal dominated the nation’s newspapers and news magazines. CBS, NBC and ABC covered the congressional hearings on it fully -- at first simultaneously, then on a rotating basis, and PBS re-broadcasted them at night. NPR broadcasted the audio start-to-finish every day. Compare that with the way the media reacted to Benghazi, where a US Ambassador and three other Americans were murdered and other Americans seriously injured by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.

Clearly Benghazi is a major scandal, more serious and more complex than Watergate, with a far wider scope and with profound implications for national security. Americans under siege for hours were abandoned by their country and told to forget about the world’s greatest military power making any real attempt to come to their rescue. And shortly before that, they had been told to forget about their repeated pleas not to withdraw a small security force they considered essential for their safety.

Yet it took months before most of the media finally asked questions they should have focused on right from the start. At first, and until well past Election Day, most newspapers relegated questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi to minor examination at best. Only one major broadcast news network -- Fox -- treated Benghazi as the significant news story it is.

Fred J. Eckert

Fred J. Eckert is a former Republican congressman from New York and twice served as a US Ambassador under President Ronald Reagan, who called him “a good friend and valued advisor.”