“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody they should go after me. For them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi…to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.” – President Barack Obama November 14, 2012
Two weeks ago President Barack Obama gave his post-election press conference where he divulged in an array of issues, none got more notoriety than his forceful defense of his United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. Republicans are trying to make Rice their scapegoat on the Benghazi terrorist attack, a charge that is both unfair and outrageous.
The attack on Rice has been led by Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte. To assuage their fears Rice recently met with the three senators who said they were more concerned about Rice after their meeting than before it.
“Bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before,” said Sen. Graham (S.C.).
Ayotte said she left the meeting with Rice “more troubled, not less.”
McCain told reporters that he and his colleagues remain “significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate that we tried to get.”
The three senators also released a statement that said in part:
“We are disturbed by the Administration’s continued inability to answer even the most basic questions about the Benghazi attack and the Administration’s response. Beyond Ambassador Rice’s misstatements, we continue to have questions about what happened in Benghazi before, during, and after the attack on our consulate — as well as the President’s statements regarding the attack.”
Republicans believe that Rice and by extension the Obama Administration purposely misled the American people on the Benghazi terrorist attack for political purpose. They have labeled Rice as being “incompetent” and “not qualified”. Representative James Clyburn has called the attacks racist:
“You know, these are code words. These kinds of terms that those of us — especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South — we’ve been hearing these little words and phrases all of our lives and we get insulted by them.”
I disagree with Rep. Clyburn, I do not believe that racism is involved in the Republicans opposition on Rice’s nomination, but I do believe pure politics is at play. Ambassador Rice is a Rhodes Scholar who has served this country well; she is definitely qualified to become the next Secretary of State. Everyone agrees that the intelligence she presented after the Benghazi attack was flawed, but not because of her own doing. Rice gave the facts as she knew them and presented to the nation what the intelligence community had presented to her. The failure is in the intelligence community, not Susan Rice. Which brings me to another Rice, Condoleeza Rice.
Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon.com recently wrote an article highlighting the GOP hypocrisy over the Susan Rice’s possible nomination.
“Eight years ago, when Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice in 2004, Democrats said that she misled the American people when she propagated intelligence that later proved to be false. In her case, it was about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. She also sent a letter to Senate Democrats in March 2003 claiming that the U.S. had briefed U.N. weapons inspectors on what they knew about Iraq’s WMD program (they had not). And Democrats also charged that she concealed the CIA’s doubts about whether Iraq had sought uranium from Niger — she said there was “consensus” within the administration when in fact there was not; the story turned out to be false.
So what did the Republican senators questioning Susan Rice today say about the Condoleezza Rice committing the very same alleged crime then? A Nexis search turns up nothing from Collins or Graham of relevance. McCain actually defended her. All three then-senators voted for her confirmation.
Whereas McCain is today giving the intelligence community the benefit of the doubt and placing the blame on Susan Rice, in 2004 his finger was pointed squarely at the intelligence community. “The president of the United States was told by the director of intelligence that the weapons of mass destruction information was a ‘slam dunk … So it was great failures, and we all know that the CIA has to be reformed,” McCain said on “Meet the Press” in November 2004 while discussing Rice’s nomination. A few days later he told Lou Dobbs on CNN: “I serve on the Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction, and there is no doubt that the CIA is dysfunctional and there needs to be significant and fundamental changes made.”
During Rice’s confirmation hearings, where Democrats grilled her on the faulty intelligence, Rice echoed McCain. “Obviously, there were problems with the intelligence concerning Iraq (and) weapons of mass destruction,” Rice said.”
Some have suggested that Republicans are trying to disqualify Rice so President Obama would nominate Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State over Rice which would open up a Massachusetts senate seat, a seat that would seem poised for recently defeated Republican Senator Scott Brown to win in a special election.
This all comes down to Republican hypocrisy, politics, and boiling the wrong Rice. Republicans went easy on Condoleeza Rice when she presented bad intelligence to the country, but now they are saying Susan Rice should be disqualified for essentially doing a similar thing. In the end I predict Rice will be nominated and eventually confirmed. This is a fight President Obama should not walk away from.