The Benghazi Hearing: Did It Matter?

Today’s Benghazi hearing had many dramatic moments and added significantly to our knowledge of that disaster. For example, we now know that there were multiple instances when special ops would-be rescuers were told to stand down, leading Lt. Col. Gibson to tell Greg Hicks, “This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.” Obvious questions remain to be answered: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hide behind the military, saying or implying that doing nothing to try to save the besieged Americans in Benghazi was a military decision. But we don’t know that: who actually gave the order to give up on the Americans who eventually died? So far, there is no evidence on the record.

In this respect, and others, today’s hearing was illuminating, and also pointed the way toward future inquiries. But I think everyone knows, whether they admit it or not, that the Benghazi issue is ultimately political. What we already know for sure is devastating: the Obama administration treated the security of our diplomats and others in Libya in a grossly cavalier manner, which led directly to the deaths of our ambassador and three more Americans. Further, it is obvious that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and others lied about the Benghazi travesty, weirdly blaming it on a YouTube video maker–who, by the way, is in prison at this moment as a convenient scapegoat–rather than acknowledging that al Qaeda had scored a major success.

No informed person doubts any of this. Democrats don’t want to talk about it, but they don’t try to deny it, either. So as usual, the political consequences of Benghazi depend on the vast sea of low-information voters. Press coverage of today’s hearing wasn’t especially biased; the New York Times, for example, had a reasonably balanced account. But that is immaterial: people who read the Times already know that Benghazi was a fiasco for the Obama administration.

The question is whether Benghazi will break out into the broader culture. Will low-information Americans, who likely don’t know that Libya is in North Africa, have their attention drawn to Benghazi? Will the scandal be featured on Yahoo!, in People magazine, at TMZ, and so on? These sorts of outlets are the channels through which most Americans get their news. Will the liberals who run most, if not all, of these popular outlets choose to spread the word about the Obama administration’s Benghazi disaster?

It will be a few days before we know the answer for sure, but so far indications are not promising. Today’s two big news stories were 1) the rescue of three women from a house in Cleveland where they had been held prisoner for a decade, and 2) the first-degree murder conviction of Jodi Arias. For the average American, Benghazi was not even a footnote compared to these major stories. Not to mention the NBA and NHL playoffs and major league baseball. If you were one of the many millions of people who accessed Yahoo’s main page today, did you see anything about Benghazi? No. Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy, yes; about Benghazi, nothing.

Democrats don’t try to defend Obama’s and Clinton’s actions with regard to Benghazi, they launch pro forma counterattacks and hope the mass of voters never find out what really happened. Whether Obama and Clinton dodge the bullet is up to the organs of popular culture. Which doesn’t make me optimistic.