In no sense is Benghazi the Watergate scandal of the Obama administration.
Benghazi is unlike Watergate in that no one was murdered during Watergate. In this sense, Benghazi is much more serious.
However, unlike Watergate, there is little evidence that the US president or his administration broke any laws during the Benghazi affair. The behavior of the President and his minions was a crime by any definition of the word. However, no crimes were committed under US law.
This is an important point.
The Watergate investigation was driven by three prongs.
First, since the whole thing began with a crime (a third-rate burglary), the local police, the FBI, prosecutors, and judges were the first to get involved, and by all accounts they behaved honorably in trying to get to the bottom of things. No matter how Nixon and his cronies tried to sweep things under the rug, they discovered that they could not make the scandal go away because of these criminal investigations.
Second, there were congressional investigations which did not stop until Nixon was impeached. In the beginning, no doubt many of the people involved in these investigations were politically motivated and were engaged in a witch hunt. However, by the end, it was clear that the motivation of most of the people involved was honorable–they were looking for the truth, and fulfilling their constitutional duty.
Third, there was the press. The role of the press has been overemphasized in the legends that have been spun about Watergate, but it did play a role. Even if Woodward and Bernstein only knew half the story, given to them by government investigators who were doing all the heavy lifting, and even if they got a lot of facts wrong or were distracted by trivia (such as the dirty tricks campaign), and even if they were practically the only reporters digging into the mess when many others were simply uninterested, they at least kept the story alive and in the public eye, and this was an immeasurable help to those in Congress who wanted to get to the bottom of things.
One must understand that both the congressional investigations and the reporting by the press were driven by the criminal investigations. Without the criminal investigations, the whole Watergate scandal would have died.
So, how does Benghazi compare?
Unless new evidence is found suggesting that US laws were broken, there are and will be no criminal investigations. Some are now suggesting that a special prosecutor be appointed. This is a non-starter for several reasons, the most important of which being that previous special prosecutors were all seen as engaging in witch hunts. No one really wants a special prosecutor involved. And, if somehow there were a criminal investigation, what are the odds that the justice system of the US would want to get to the bottom of things? The Fast and Furious investigation went no where, yet it involved serious crimes and people died because of these crimes.
Regarding the press, it is largely silent on Benghazi or actively engaged in the coverup. There is only one reporter from a major news source who is actively pursuing the story, and now it seems that her job is in jeopardy. This is a non-story to most reporters, and will stay that way, as more than 90% of them are avid supporters of Obama, and most plan to vote for Clinton if she runs in 2016.
The only hope for keeping the investigation alive is congressional investigations. However, unless more people come forward, the investigations have already reached their high point and will soon stall. And unlike the Watergate investigations, any congressional investigation into Benghazi will never get bipartisan support, for the simple reason that the Democrats in Congress are not interested in the truth or holding the administration accountable–they are only interested in holding power and seeing their agenda enacted.
This is a gut check moment for the GOP leadership in Congress. There is some evidence (a lot actually) that many Republicans in Congress are just as craven as the Democrats, that they are willing to have an investigation to score points against the Obama administration and please their constituents, but at the end of the day really see the investigation as a distraction and would like it to go away so they can get back to business as usual.
If this is true, then the investigation will die, and may indeed already be dead.
Roger Simon, whom I respect, believes that the current investigation will end in impeachment. Here I disagree. This is indeed another area where Benghazi differs from Watergate.
Impeachment has two parts. The first is a vote for the articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, and the second is an impeachment trial in the Senate.
The last time the House voted to impeach, the GOP was destroyed in the mid-term elections afterwards because the public thought that it was engaged in a witch hunt. This was not all that long ago, and there are a few members of Congress who still remember that incident. It is hard to believe that the House would vote to impeach Obama unless a smoking gun were found in his hand and a body at his feet, and unless the public were also crying for Obama’s head on a platter. Neither of these things are true today, and if the last election is any guide, even if a dead body were found at Obama’s feet and smoking gun in his hand, the public would treat it as a big yawn.
Now, even if the House did vote to impeach, the Senate is in the hands of the Democrats. It may be that the Republicans will take the chamber in 2014, but if it happens it will be by a small margin. What is the likelihood that any Democratic senator would ever vote to remove Obama from office? Nil. What is the likelihood that every single one the Republican senators would vote to remove Obama from office, especially when he is guilty of crimes that were also committed by his VP, who was actually more engaged with what happened on September 11 than the POTUS? Nil. And if the Senate will not vote to remove him from office, then it is unlikely the House will ever vote on articles for impeachment. They have been down that road before, and the result was not good.
It is highly unlikely that Obama will be impeached and removed from office over Benghazi, so anyone investigating this mess has to have another motivation (for example, finding the truth and seeing justice served) and they will have to be reconciled to a long, hard, lonely slog.
Don’t get me wrong: It appears that Obama and Clinton are essentially guilty of murder, committed in the pursuit of personal political goals. However, given the current political climate and what we know now, Benghazi is not going to drive Obama from office, and is unlikely to hurt Clinton in 2016.