Benghazi Will Never Go Away for Hillary Clinton

Ben Margot/AP

Someone tweets about Benghazi every 12 seconds. Not every 12 days or every 12 minutes, but every 12 seconds.

Over the past month, that's added up to more than 200,000 tweets, according to the social-media tracking firm Topsy. And while mentions of the attack on the American compound in Libya soared in the past few days thanks to new revelations about the government's handling of the incident, Benghazi still scores about 5,000 tweets per day during the long periods between fresh news developments.

Notably, that's about the same number of tweets as Hillary Clinton gets on most days. In fact, over the past 30 days, Benghazi edged out Clinton on Twitter, earning 219,325 mentions to Clinton's 219,163 (as of the end of the workday Thursday.)

If this means anything, it's that the controversy is not fading with time. It remains something—perhaps the biggest thing—that Clinton and her team will have to deal with, should she decide to run for president, whether she wants to or not.

Clinton, who has seen both sides of a scandal—first working for congressional Watergate investigators and later as the subject of several probes herself—knows as well as anyone that there will always be new, incremental revelations that can reignite a simmering scandal, as long as partisans have an interest in keeping it burning.

And Republicans clearly see benefits in keeping Benghazi in the headlines. "For Secretary Clinton, Benghazi will be the defining event of her tenure as secretary of State, so if she chooses to run for president, avoiding addressing the questions head on will not be an option," said Tim Miller, the executive director of the Republican opposition-research group America Rising.

The attack undercuts one of her key achievements as secretary of state—the toppling of former Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi—and, to a lesser extent, her entire tenure. As Clinton herself said last week, the attack is her "biggest regret" from her time at State.

And while it's far from an Achilles' heel for the presumed Democratic front-runner, the vast majority of Americans are familiar with the attack, according to polls, and respondents to a recent Pew survey listed it as Clinton's top weakness.

Most important, it resonates with voters on the right, and Republican leaders will keep the scandal alive if for no other reason than to mobilize their own base.

This week, new revelations include an email from Obama national security aide Ben Rhodes that appears to show that the White House downplayed the possibility of terrorism in the aftermath of the attack, instead blaming an anti-Muslim video that had sparked violent protests in more than a dozen Muslim countries around the attack.

The other piece of news came Thursday in congressional testimony from retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, who served as deputy director of intelligence for the military's Africa Command, which has jurisdiction over Libya. "What we did know quite early on was that this was a hostile action. This was no demonstration gone terribly awry," Lovell said, undermining the very case the White House was pushing in the initial days after the attack.

Congressional probes will continue, even as Democrats criticize Republican investigators' "embarrassing ... conspiracy theories" and bemoan the " millions of dollars" spent. And if the Republicans take the Senate this year, expect the number of investigations to double.

Even—or especially—if neither of the tidbits of news this week contained any substantive new information, let alone a smoking gun, the steadfast interest on social media and in the press shows why Clinton will likely never be able to entirely break free of the attack.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.