Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador says the Senate Foreign Relations Committee went easy on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her Jan. 23 farewell appearance, which included testimony on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
“I wasn’t pleased,” Labrador said, winning applause from a standing-room-only crowd in Meridian last Thursday. “I think one of the problems we have in Washington — you have these senators and congressmen who love to hear themselves speak.
“And all they could do was praise Hillary Clinton. I actually think she’s done a pretty good job. I disagree with what happened on Benghazi, but she was a pretty good Secretary of State.
“But all they could do was they spent 2 1/2 minutes praising her and 2 1/2 minutes asking questions. I wish they would have actually asked questions for the entire five minutes. They would have really gotten to the bottom of what happened.”
Labrador, who visited Middle East embassies on a congressional trip in January, said more hearings will come in an effort to learn more. “I don’t think we have all the answers.”
Labrador’s comments on Clinton are just part of the good material from Rep. Labrador left on the cutting room floor after my column in today’s print edition.
Thanks to the economy of the blog, I can offer the outtakes for loyal readers of Idaho Politics who’ve negotiated the new format. (You’ll get used to it. Really. If a dinosaur like me can adapt, so can you!)
I attended Labrador’s town hall at Meridian City Hall expecting to gather string for a story on the Idaho delegation’s views on immigration reform. But I came away with far more, including my assertion in today’s column that Labrador may strike while the iron’s hot and run for governor in 2014.
That question was put to him directly by Vicki Keen, who said, “We’re so proud of you. I’m just wondering if you are considering or would consider running for governor?”
“I thought Dan Popkey was the only one who asked that question!” Labrador said, laughing. “You know, at this moment in my life I am so humbled and honored that people keep asking me the question. I have not made a decision. It’s not something I think about a lot.
“I feel really strongly that I’m doing what I need to do in Washington. I will be making a decision about that in the next few months, hopefully, by the middle of the year. But I’m just honored that you would even ask that. Thank you.”
Labrador also spoke about enduring criticism after casting tough votes, including his opposition to extending unemployment benefits.
“The reality is that unemployment would come down and the economy would grow if we didn’t have such extensive unemployment benefits, if we didn’t make it so easy to be on disability,” he said.
“Any time I make a tough decision the local newspapers attack me and it’s a good thing I have a pretty strong back, because it’s difficult. You get tired of being attacked and attacked and attacked and at some point, some people break. But I promise you: I’m not going to break.”
Many in the crowd expressed fear that gun laws will tighten. Labrador urged them not to worry. “There’s a lot of fear in Idaho about what’s going to happen. You need to understand that it is highly unlikely if not impossible for any gun legislation to even get out of the Senate, where the Democrats are in control.
“Six or seven senators live in states Romney won and they’re up for reelection in two years. Can you imagine any of them voting to take away your gun rights? It’s not going to happen.”
Even should the Senate somehow pass something, Labrador said the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee would lock down the bill. “I feel just a strongly as you do, but I don’t have the fear that you do because I understand what’s going to happen in Washington.”
A sweet moment came near the end of the 90-minute forum, when 10-year-old Craig Porter of Kuna stood on a chair and in a strong and clear voice asked, “Do you think Obama’s doing a good job as president?”
The partisan GOP crowd whooped at the young man’s confidence and Labrador said, “I’m glad you’re not eligible to run for Congress.”
As for Porter’s question, Labrador faulted Obama on managing the economy, saying, “I personally don’t think he’s doing a good job. However, I think we as Republicans need to do a good job as well.”