Do the Benghazi hearings pose a political risk for Republicans?

Charles Krauthammer argues that the upcoming Benghazi hearings “are a big political risk to Republicans,” but should go forward anyway because “the country deserves the truth.” Krauthammer worries that the hearings could distract voters from major issues like Obamacare, the economy, and chronic unemployment.

He also recalls that the Clinton impeachment proceedings in 1998 backfired politically. The Republicans actually lost a few House seats in the election that year, even though the Party occupying the White House usually suffers losses in the sixth year of their presidency.

I don’t share Krauthammer’s concerns. Voters, I would argue, are never distracted from the issues of economy and jobs. These matters have too much bearing on their everyday lives. Voters will not be distracted from Obamacare for basically the same reason, and because Republican candidates will campaign non-stop on the issue.

As for the Clinton impeachment proceedings let’s remember three things. First, they were not an investigation, but rather an attempt to remove the President of the United States from office. One could easily argue that this was overreach. It’s harder to make that case with a mere investigation.

Second, the Clinton scandal could be characterized as revolving around sex. Benghazi is about the death of four Americans, including an ambassador, following the failure to heed warnings about their safety and the failure to attempt to save them while they were under attack.

Finally, in 1998 the economy was booming. The boom, not the impeachment proceedings, was the main reason why the Dems did better than expected (Republicans still won a majority of House seats) in that election.

As I recall, only one Republican impeachment committee member, the impressive James Rogan from a swing district in California, lost his seat in 2008. To be safe, Boehner should appoint only Republicans from safe seats to the select committee on Benghazi.

This year the economy seems to be improving, but no one — not even partisan Democrats who have been warned to stay away from the “R” (for recovery) word — thinks its booming.

It’s possible that the Benghazi hearings will be horribly botched. In that event, the Dems could gain some small advantage. But the more likely scenario is that the hearings will be a political wash in 2014 and, depending on what we learn about Hillary Clinton, a small plus for the Republicans in 2016.

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