House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Monday reauthorized the eighth investigation of the circumstances surrounding the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
He did that just days after the House Intelligence Committee issued a report largely dismissing conspiracy theories that the Obama administration somehow thwarted the U.S. military from rescuing Stevens and the others. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and other Republicans who are convinced there is a lot more to this story dismissed the Intel Committee report as deeply flawed – or worse.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi will produce what the speaker termed the “definitive report” on the attack that occurred on the night of Sept. 11, 2002, and he reappointed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a former federal prosecutor, to lead the exhaustive probe.
The committee will hold its second public hearing next month and plans more hearings next year. This granddaddy of all Benghazi investigations will likely grind on for months -- if not the next year – all but guaranteeing that its findings will be released in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign.
While nothing particularly damaging has surfaced so far to implicate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republicans haven’t given up hope that something will turn up in Gowdy’s investigation that could slow Clinton’s march to the White House.
“Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night – and why,” Boehner said in a statement.
But is that so?
While Republican lawmakers and political strategists have obsessed on the Benghazi tragedy, recent polling suggests that the controversy is not exactly on the radar of many Americans.
A June Gallup survey showed that 43 percent of Americans say they are following the story “very closely” or “somewhat closely” while a slight majority -- 57 percent, are paying little or no attention.
“The combined 43 percent of Americans who report paying very or somewhat close attention to news about the upcoming Benghazi hearings in Gallup's June 5-8 poll falls well short of the average 60 percent attention-to-news rating in Gallup's data bank of major news stories measured since 1991,” according to Gallup. “In fact, it ranks 189th out of the 224 news events Gallup has measured.”
Back in May 2013, a survey by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed that even among the quarter of Americans who thought Benghazi was the biggest political scandal in American history, 39 percent didn’t know where Benghazi is located. Many guessed that it was in Egypt, Iran, Syria or even North Korea.
The survey also showed that Americans trusted Clinton more than congressional Republicans for getting the story right, 49 percent to 39 percent. But subsequent surveys indicate that the public is far less charitable in assessing the potential culpability of the Obama administration.
Six in 10 Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way the Obama administration has handled the terror attack on the U.S. compound, according to a June CNN/ORC International poll -- indicating that only 37 percent accepted the administration’s response.
Much of the criticism from Republicans relates to the administration’s initial “talking points” alleging that the attacks grew out of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic video. That version – presented on Sunday talk shows by then UN ambassador Susan Rich, proved to be bogus. Administration officials have also come under intense scrutiny over security arrangements at the consulate before the attack, and the response to the armed militants as they were attacking.
While those Americans who are actually following the case may eventually suffer from Benghazi fatigue, Boehner is correct in asserting that many Americans still think it is worth doing one final investigation.
According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 51 percent said they support further inquiry into the incident, while 42 percent do not. Not surprisingly, 72 percent of Republicans supported another probe, while 31 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents agreed the Gowdy investigation is needed.
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