WASHINGTON — Steady drips of information about a horrific night in Libya are fueling Republican arguments and ads designed to fire up the conservative base and undercut the Democrats’ early favorite for president in 2016: former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Strategists in both parties disagree on the issue’s power to influence elections next year and beyond. But after eight months of trying, Democrats are still struggling to move past the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi last Sept. 11 that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Democrats insist that an independent inquiry, the dismissal of several State Department officials and nine congressional hearings leave little new to say on the matter. But Friday turned up the sort of nuggets that feed conservative activists’ belief that a major scandal might be at hand.
Newly revealed communications show that senior State Department officials pressed for changes in the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used a few days after the Benghazi attacks. These senior officials expressed concerns that Congress might criticize the Obama administration for ignoring warnings of a growing threat in Libya.
Rice and others eventually acknowledged that the Benghazi assault was a premeditated terrorist attack. Republicans say her Sept. 16 televised remarks were only the start of administration efforts to mislead Americans about what happened.