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Thursday, October 27, 2016

By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The creation of a special committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks carries the potential for political gains — and risks — for Republicans.

The House of Representatives voted Thursday create a special panel to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks, a vote pushed through by the Republican majority on a largely party-line vote.

The panel is to investigate “all policies, decisions, and activities” dealing with the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. Its timetable is open-ended — virtually assuring that hearings will be held, and reports will be issued, as the 2016 presidential campaign unfolds.

Republicans, who will rule the committee 7-5, sense potential for staggering President Barack Obama and, perhaps more important, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her way to the 2016 presidential race. They see fundraising possibilities, as well as a powerful tool for firing up their base for this midterm election, a time when turnout is traditionally low.

Many Republicans also worry they’re playing with political fire.

“The people who are seen as politicizing this are going to get burned” regardless of political party, warned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Democrats have their own quandary. If they keep saying it’s all politics, they could look like they’re trying to avoid further examination of how the Obama administration responded to the attacks that killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

“If Democrats are seen as not wanting to know more about Benghazi, if they’re seen as protecting the White House and Clinton, they’ll get burned,” Graham said.

Democrats seem unworried by that prospect. “Trying to politicize a tragedy where people lost their lives is not going to work out,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) who last week endorsed Clinton for president in 2016.

Since the attacks on the U.S. special mission and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, Republicans have questioned U.S. security arrangements and the military response to the incident.

Republicans see an opening for embarrassing Clinton, but polling suggests the public is not that interested. And a Pew Research Center survey last year, as Congress held hearings on Benghazi, found one-third of independents thought Republicans had gone too far.

While Republicans tend to follow Benghazi developments, independents and Democrats have been less engaged. When Congress held hearings on the incident a year ago, Pew found that 23 percent of Americans followed the hearings very closely — far behind the 40 percent who were following news about the economy and the rescue of three Cleveland women who had been held captive.

There’s also scant evidence yet that the incident will make much difference if Clinton runs for president. A March Pew poll found two-thirds of Americans approved of the job she did as secretary of state.

When Pew asked people to cite the most negative thing about Clinton, Benghazi topped the list, but at just 15 percent. Gallup asked a similar question — what would be the worst or most negative thing about a Clinton presidency — and Benghazi was seventh on the list, at 2 percent. Tops was that she was not qualified, followed by her gender.

Benghazi could matter politically, though, because it motivates Republicans, said Carroll Doherty, Pew director of political research.

The party is trying to show Benghazi is part of a pattern typical of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. If she runs, “both in the primary and general she’ll be facing people with almost no foreign policy experience,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action, a conservative political group. “She’ll no doubt try to exploit that.”

If she does, Holler said, Republicans will contend Benghazi “does contribute to a narrative that she was a major player in a foreign policy agenda that is widely seen as a failure.”

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Photo: Secretary of Defense via Flickr

  • Stuart

    I don’t know why Republicans are fooling around with Benghazi, IRS, Obamacare, whatever. These things help raise campaign money, but they pale in comparision to the mother of all campaign honeypots — impeachment.

    List some stuff you disagree with Obama about and call them impeachable offenses. Ted Cruz has a list, so there’s a starting point. There isn’t a Republican on the planet who wouldn’t want to be on record as impeaching Obama.

    Get on with it. There’s money to be made.

    • charleo1

      I’ll tell you exactly why Republicans are, “fooling around.” It goes to capability. There isn’t a Republican in the Country that agrees on anything but impeaching Obama, and taking health insurance away from millions of formerly uninsured Americans. This is not the kind of stuff that will stir the patriotic hearts of Americans, for the next 200 years. It will be a viewed as a regretful, yet teachable moment in the history of our Country. When one Party of a two Party system, lost it’s way, it’s soul, it’s guiding principals, and prime directives. And forgot, the sole reason for their existence is to keep the welfare of the Country, and it’s people, foremost in their efforts. Today, they seem to me, as adrift as the day the Bush Administration ended. Leaving the Country at war on two fronts, the Nation’s economy on the verge of collapse. And, as oblivious to the reality of an ideology of an Administration that failed to see the worse kind of politics, produces the kind of results, we continue laboring to overcome to this very day. I pray, yes, Liberals pray. And beseech the Almighty to keep the levers of power out of the hands of fools, and blabbering idiots, until such time as they come to their senses, or the Country is once again strong enough to survive another Republican onslaught.

  • charleo1

    If only the GOP had something, anything, an agenda, a plan, a set of goals, they could talk about. Leaders, who’s entire universe didn’t center around stopping Obama, impeaching Obama, destroying Obama. As if that were the singular, and complete end all, and ultimate answer to all of the Country’s ills. If only their base wasn’t just as barren of ideas, or goals. Or, weren’t themselves so thoroughly, and deliberately misinformed. They keep them angry, to keep them motivated to donate, and vote. But, this also has the effect of keeping their core constituency in the dark, on many aspects. And, leaves the larger segment of the Country often feeling as if the GOP is dealing from a different deck, using a complete, and other set of facts, and talking to an unseen entity, or character off stage, that is not on our hand bill. To which we have not been properly introduced. In launching into yet another, “special,” inquiry into the events in Libya. They come off as deceitful in their stated motivation for the investigation. Unwilling to concede that sometimes the truth, is just the truth. That a tragedy happening on the opposition’s watch, doesn’t always yield political gold. Especially for a political Party that has done precious little to earn any gold for themselves. They seem desperate, ghoulish even. And all too eager to make their bones on the deaths of these men, produced, and used as a sideshow, a distraction to an election they’d lose hands down on the merits of their own actions, and leadership.