In World War Two, the Libyan port of Benghazi was hard fought over, changing hands five times between Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and the Allied forces. Seventy years on, the city has again become the focus of a fierce battle, this time between Republicans and Democrats over the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11, 2012.
This week’s House committee resumed the fight, with GOP members eager to show the Obama administration at fault. Because Hillary Clinton has already emerged as the 2016 Democratic frontrunner, determining what exactly happened in Benghazi that day has become the first scuffle in the next presidential election.
In the weeks running up to President Barack Obama’s reelection, conservative commentators thought that in the Benghazi deaths they had found an explosive issue that would shock the nation. Despite their best efforts, which elicited an admission of responsibility from the secretary of state, the Benghazi campaign did not move the pollsters’ needle. The campaign to implicate the president andClinton was long on innuendo and short on facts. There was no smoking gun. As a result, voters did not grasp what they were being urged to be indignant about.
Despite this indifference, Republicans are pressing on. The former presidential hopeful and Fox News host Mike Huckabee has high hopes Benghazi will lead to impeachment. “I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term,” he said. “This is not minor. It wasn’t minor when Richard Nixon lied to the American people and worked with those in his administration to cover up what really happened in Watergate.”
But even after the House revisited Benghazi and took evidence from three State Department whistleblowers, the most alarming front-page headline Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal could come up with was: “Diplomat Airs Attack Details.” And its low-key editorial, “The Benghazi Awakening,” was a quiet plea for more information, not a cry for impeachment. Even the most eager conspiracy theorists may be excused for stifling a yawn. Once again, Republicans have raced off in their own direction, leaving the rest of us wondering what all the fuss is about.