Why the Benghazi Hearings Are Likely to Be a Bust
Foreign policy matters rarely top the list of voter concerns. That’s especially true in times of challenging economic news.
In recent weeks, though, national security topics have been working their way into the headlines. First came the Boston Marathon bombings and questions about terrorist connections. The civil war in Syria entered the news with reports of chemical warfare followed by an Israeli bombing near Damascus. Finally, congressional hearings have provided additional details about what happened in Benghazi, Libya, on the day Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans were murdered during a terrorist attack.
Still, only 10 percent of voters nationwide rank national security issues as their top concern. Most are more worried about the economy and fiscal policy issues.
After all, just 26 percent believe their own personal finances are getting better. Thirty-nine percent say they’re getting worse. Only 20 percent believe the economy is in good shape, while 36 percent rate it as poor. While economists say the nation’s economy is growing again, 48 percent of Americans believe the country is still in a recession.
Even in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, a majority of voters still believed that economic threats to our nation were a bigger concern than terrorist attacks.
Despite the news from Syria, 73 percent of voters nationwide believe the United States should stay out of that situation. Fewer than one out of four consider Syria to be a vital national security interest for our country.
Sixty-one percent approve of Israel’s decision to attack suspected bomb-making facilities near Damascus, but that doesn’t translate into a call for action. Even for a close ally like Israel, just 37 percent believe the United States should provide military assistance.
In that environment, Republicans for some reason have high hopes that the hearing on what happened in Benghazi will break through and have a political impact. One of the Senate’s leading hawks, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says the “dam is about to break” on the issue. John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has suggested it could bring down the Obama administration.
For that to happen, it’s going to take a lot more than we know today. It’s true that voters are skeptical about the administration’s handling of the issue. Just 32 percent believe the president’s team has done a good job explaining what happened. Forty percent say the explanations have been poor.
Eight out of 10 believe it’s important to learn what actually happened. That includes 51 percent who say learning the truth is “very important.”
The public is also doubtful that justice will be served. Only 40 percent are even somewhat confident that the ambassador’s murderers will be caught and punished.
But as has been the case since he first assumed office, President Obama continues to earn better marks on foreign policy than he gets for handling the economy. The latest numbers show that 47 percent give the president good marks on national security, while only 33 percent rate his performance as poor.
With the public largely tuning out foreign policy topics, it will take some pretty spectacular revelations to change those perceptions. Until that happens, it’s likely that economic issues and the president’s health care law will be the driving issues of the 2014 elections.