President Obama has yet to nominate anyone to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but Republicans are already lining up in opposition to potential replacement U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, citing her complicity in the administration’s alleged failures in responding to the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) promised to filibuster Rice’s nomination and “do whatever to block the nomination that is within our power.” “She’s not qualified,” McCain explained, arguing that she misled the public by initially attributing the September 11 Benghazi attack to protests over an anti-Islam video. He claimed that at a minimum, Rice is guilty of “not being very bright, because it was obvious that this was not a ‘flash mob’ and there was additional information by the time she went on every news show…in America.”
But interestingly, McCain took a far different approach to another Rice in 2005. When President George W. Bush nominated National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the post, McCain defended the nomination, despite Rice’s central role in spreading the false intelligence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. The Democrats held hours of hearing and ultimately confirmed Rice, but not before McCain accused the opposition of using politics to delay her confirmation and challenging her “integrity”:
McCAIN: Condoleezza Rice is a great American success story. This is what America is all about. A young woman who grew up in a segregated part of America where Americans were not treated equally, to rise to the position of secretary of state. We should have been celebrating, I believe, this remarkable American success story.
Also, I thought that some of the remarks — and I’m not going to mention my colleagues’ names — some of the remarks aimed at her during the hearings challenged her integrity. We can disagree on policy and we disagree on a lot of things, but I think it is very clear that Condoleezza Rice is a person of integrity. And yes, I see this, some lingering bitterness over a very tough campaign. I hope it dissipates soon.
“I can only conclude we’re doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness at the outcome of the elections,” McCain told CBS Morning News on January 27, 2005.
Seven years later, there is no evidence that Susan Rice mislead the public, yet McCain is leading the charge to oppose her. Rice was “speaking from a set of talking points provided by the U.S. intelligence community, which was also provided to Congress. The video has also been cited by those on the ground as being an impetus for the attack in recent weeks, challenging the Republican narrative.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Obama defended Rice, saying that the has “done exemplary work.” Rice “gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” he said, adding that for McCain “to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi, who was giving a presentation based on the intelligence she had received…is outrageous.”
BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller notes that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-NC), who is also opposing Susan Rice, backed Condoleezza. “[E]very intelligence agency in the world was misled. And to connect those two to say that she’s a liar is very unfair, over the line.”