John McCain and other GOP senators continue their witch hunt aimed at demeaning United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. What could explain these senators continued witch hunt against Rice?
Ambassador Rice’s supposed offense was to downplay the possibility that the September 11th attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya had been perpetrated by al-Qaeda terrorists or their local allies, while emphasizing the idea that it had been inspired by an anti-Muslim video on the Internet. The Obama administration eventually acknowledged that the Benghazi attack was a well-planned assault, and recently resigned CIA Director David Petraeus testified that it was apparent to intelligence officials that a simple mob was not responsible for the incident. The White House also confirmed that Rice took to the Sunday talk shows and spoke from the talking points provided to her by the CIA.
That has not stopped John McCain from leading the charge to condemn Rice even though he previously stated that she was not the problem with Benghazi. And while McCain’s attack against Ambassador Rice, were later disproved by a conformation that it was the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) who removed the al-Qaeda references from Susan Rice’s talking points, he continues to humiliate himself, taking to the friendly Fox News airwaves desperately looking for anything to further Rice’s condemnation.
McCain is joined by his reliable sidekick Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and Kelly Ayotte, a junior Republican from New Hampshire with no significant national security experience and little evident grasp of the facts – have said that that Rice’s inaccurate statements disqualify her from becoming the next secretary of state. Ayotte even made an unprecedented threat to put a “hold” on Rice’s nomination if Obama sends it up to the Hill, the first time in memory that a senator has deployed that privilege against a prospective nominee to head the State Department.
The trio’s baseless persecution of Susan Rice, who is rumored to be selected to replace departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, smacks of hypocrisy. The Benghazi incident is rightly under investigation by the FBI and the CIA, as well as Congressional committees. What those probes have established so far is that the security arrangements at the consulate never came within the specific purview of the White House. The notion that Rice or any other administration official intentionally misled the public already has also been debunked by Petraeus, who reportedly told a closed-door hearing on Capitol Hill, attended by John McCain, that Rice had followed the declassified talking points provided by US intelligence agencies. McCain notably did not address the throngs of reporters present after that meeting, instead promptly leaving when that hearing concluded. Moreover, McCain and Graham have publicly acknowledged that Rice was just a spokesperson for the administration and had nothing to do with security in Benghazi.
As ambassador to the U.N., Rice is not in charge of intelligence, intelligence reports or embassy security. Rice’s job was just to tell what that intelligence report said on the Sunday shows, and that’s precisely what she did. Her performance as a spokesperson in the aftermath of the 9/11 Benghazi embassy attack in no way rises to the level of a disqualifying offence if President Obama were to decide to appoint her as the next secretary of state. McCain, Graham and Ayotte are completely wrong on this one.
It begs the question; why is the focus on the spokesperson and not the person who is in charge of embassy operations and security, current Secretary of State Hilary Clinton?
After a closed door meeting between the three Republican senators, Rice and acting CIA Director Michael Morell earlier this week, failed to mollify the senators concerns, they signaled they would oppose her possible nomination to be Secretary of State. What specifically are those concerns remains obscure. Graham muttered that he is “disturbed,” while McCain claims to be “troubled.” The haranguing Ayotte’s motives and behavior are hardly above suspicion.
It does not look good for the Senators or the GOP as a whole who already have a reputation of being hostile towards the President, African-Americans and women. Many I have talked casually with, express concerns that the reason the opposition is so staunch against Rice is that Republicans do not want the two most powerful faces that represent America around the world to be Black faces. While that theory certainly holds water, I think the Republican position is less sinister and more strategic.
New York Times columnist David Brooks speculates that Republican McCain has been critical of Rice because of both personal animosity and his loyalty to Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who along with Rice is rumored to be on the shortlist to become the next secretary of state. “I guess my theory is that she’s a sharp-tongued, blunt person, and, in the past, she has taken some shots at John McCain and others, and so this is their chance,” Brooks said. “They have no wellspring of sympathy with her, the way they actually probably do with John Kerry, her potential rival to be the next secretary of state, having taken a bunch of delegation trips with Kerry around the world. And so I suspect there’s a lot of old history here that is bubbling up.”
Taking that theory further, Republicans would like to see Kerry nominated, wherein he would easily be confirmed. That would set up yet another special election in Massachusetts where recently defeated Scott Brown would likely be nominated by the GOP and a potential favorite to win the election.
Now at least two other GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Bob Corker of Tennessee have joined in the ridiculous Rice bashing bandwagon. Corker, who will be the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the new congressional term, urged President Obama to pick a more “independent” person as chief diplomat and implied that he considered Rice too much of a partisan saying, “All of us here hold the secretary of State to a different standard than most Cabinet members,” adding, “We want somebody of independence.” Corker also seemed to contrast Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, with whom he said he has had a positive and “transparent” relationship “from day one.”
Collins said that after her 75-minute session with Rice she still had many unanswered questions and remains “troubled” that on the Benghazi issue Rice played “a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign.” Collins also seemed to be urging President Obama to instead nominate Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who she said would be an “excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues” lending credence to the notion that the outrage surrounding Rice has more to do with the GOP desiring to pick up an additional Senate seat. Not surprisingly as Collins along with Ayotte and McCain were the only Republican senators to actively campaign for Scott Brown during his failed reelection campaign.
Collins statement is also curious, dubious and hypocritical due to the fact that she and John McCain apparently had no similar campaign qualms when George W. Bush’s then National Security advisor Condeleeza Rice was actively campaigning for President Bush while being named as a potential replacement for Secretary of State during the 2004 campaign. Bush first term Secretary of State General Colin Powell’s relationship with the President had soured due to the faulty Iraq WMD intelligence. Also when Condoleezza Rice was being considered by Congress in 2005, Democrats could have made the case that as national security advisor, she had led a broken policy process that left a huge mess in Iraq and that disqualified her from a Cabinet-level rank.
Granted the poor political and military planning for the Iraq invasion and occupation was primarily due to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and his underlings. But Rice's job as national security advisor was to be sure that inconsistencies and competing views resolved, which she clearly failed to do. Those mistakes had much weightier consequences for the country than Benghazi ever will. She was also part of public presentations on Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction that later proved faulty. Yet the Senate rightly confirmed her as Bush's secretary of State, recognizing that many others shared the blame for these problems.
That lesson alone should be very clear: If George W. Bush could nominate Condeleeza Rice for a promotion to Sec. of State and Senate Democrats do their duty to advise and consent and then confirm, then President Obama, should expect the same from Republicans should he decide to nominate Susan Rice for a similar promotion. Republicans have a duty to advise and consent and confirm her appointment in the same fashion. These Republicans' reputations will be irreparably damaged if they continue to pursue this vendetta if and when the president sends up her nomination.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com