Yahoo! News: Republicans tone down Benghazi talk as elections near

Meredith Shiner and Olivier Knox report on Republican rhetoric regarding Benghazi.

Just four months ago, the future chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi delighted core elements of the Republican base when he declared that the panel would be probing “what appears to be a White House cover-up.”

Now, with the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching and the panel’s first hearing slated for September, the former prosecutor from Spartanburg, S.C., is taking a more tempered, bipartisan tone. He has declared he wants to avoid a media “circus.” Other House Republicans are sending out similar signals, denying that their creation of the special panel was ever political in nature.

The attacks on two American facilities in Benghazi left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. In the nearly two years since, Republicans have held up the tragedy to argue that the Obama administration has failed to prosecute the war on terrorism, and accused the president of fighting tooth and nail to keep evidence of incompetence (or worse) from the public.

But a pair of reports from the House Armed Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee – both of which are run by Republicans – has deflated many of the wildest allegations, with the intelligence panel publishing its findings in early August. In turn, these fact-finding operations have raised fresh questions about the purpose the special panel can serve.

Democrat Adam Schiff of California, the member who came up with the idea for the first hearing, told Yahoo News that while there seems to be an air of bipartisanship to the select committee now, that could change if and when Gowdy takes heat over the effectiveness — or lack thereof —of the committee.

"The challenge will come down the road. I think there's going to be enormous pressure on the chairman to deliver something to justify the time, the expense of the select committee. Whether he can withstand that pressure, or wants to withstand that pressure, will determine how the committee is ultimately viewed," said Schiff.

When he was asked whether it was a good idea for Democrats to participate in this effort at all, Schiff’s answer was revealing: "I guess time will tell whether the committee is constructive and whether our participation on it helps it be productive, or whether it degenerates into a circus."

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By:  Meredith Shiner and Olivier Knox
Source: Yahoo! News