Democrats’ need a Howard Baker to put truth over partisanship.

Where is the Democrats’ Howard Baker? Where is the courageous member of President Obama’s party willing to stand up and ask, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Indeed, the big unanswered question is, What did the president know about what looks more and more like a coverup or fabrication of the cause of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi? The bloody attack, orchestrated by a known terrorist group, left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

In the aftermath, many Republicans asked, and continue to ask, what the president knew. But the question cannot step from behind the shadows of political partisanship until a Democrat also asks. Then, it might force the news media to demand that the White House provide some answers.

That is precisely what happened in 1973 when Tennessee Republican Sen. Howard Baker, a minority member of the Senate Watergate Committee, famously asked what President Nixon knew and when did he know it about the botched 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee offices in Washington.

The question was not a bombshell because it was asked. It was a bombshell because it was asked by a Republican senator about a Republican president who was being accused, mostly by Democrats, of engaging in a coverup regarding the DNC break-in. Baker helped bring Watergate out of the shadow of partisanship and into the sunlight of serious inquiry. When he took an adversarial role against the president of his own party, he added muscle and credibility to the Democrat-led hearings. And the nation sat transfixed, even while on vacation, as those hearings played out on TV in the summer of ’73.

Those hearings revealed that Nixon taped his conversations in the Oval Office. The committee subpoenaed those tapes. When the court ordered them released, Nixon was finished.

But when an e-mail surfaced last week suggesting that Obama aides might have been crafting a cover story to protect the president, no Democrat has been willing to step up and publicly ask the tough questions that need to be asked of the White House:

  • Did White House officials, including Susan Rice, then ambassador to the United Nations, fabricate and disseminate a story that traced the attack to an angry mob protesting an anti-Muslim video to protect the president, then in the midst of a hard-fought re-election campaign?
  • Did people in the White House cover up or alter information from the CIA and the Defense Department that indicated the attack was made by terrorists?
  • Did the president know the full facts and still continue to publicly attribute the attack to the video?

Without Democratic questioning, rather than blind support for the president, the major news media –except…