- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Liberal commentators have dismissed today’s hearings on the Obama administration’s response to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as a purely political exercise aimed at scoring points against the Obama adminsitration rather than bringing new information to light about the events in question. But the bad news for the administration is that the American public seems to be more interested in the politics of Benghazi than the actual event.
Here’s a quick Google Trends chart showing the intensity of searches for "Benghazi" in the United States over the last 12 months:
Searches during the actual attack last September rated a score of 24 out of 100 on Google’s scale, whereas searches maxed out at 100 — the highest possible score — around Election Day last year, when the Romney campaign was criticizing the administration for covering up information about the attack. Interest peaked again during David Petraeus’s testimony on Nov. 16 (shortly after his controversial resignation from the CIA), when the State Department’s internal review was released in December, around Hillary Clinton’s memorable testimony in January, and again this week.
I’ve heard some say that Benghazi is an inside-the-Beltway story of little interest to the general public. But I think it may actually be the opposite. Beltway types– particularly liberals, but some conservatives too — are ready for this story to go away, but the public is still very much interested, and conservative media outlets in particular have continued to beat the drum. The administration may grumble that senators are politicizing a tragedy, but for the public, this has always been a political story.