President Barack Obama is firing back at a pair of Republican senators who have launched a preemptive attack against his potential nominee for secretary of state, saying that “to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
In a series of media appearances on Wednesday, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pledged they would do everything in their power to block the possible nomination of Susan Rice, the current ambassador to the United Nations, as secretary of state.
The senators have based their objection on Rice’s role in disseminating the White House’s version of events in the days immediately after the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. At the time, Rice told several television stations that the attack, which left four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to Libya dead, was not believed to be related to terrorism.
Administration officials later acknowledged that this was incorrect, and said the misleading information was the product of incomplete “talking points” from the intelligence community, although Republicans on Capitol Hill believe the White House knew the truth sooner.
To McCain, Graham, and a small cadre of colleagues, this is enough to disqualify Rice from a cabinet-level job.
“Susan Rice should have known better, and if she didn’t know better, she’s not qualified,” McCain said Wednesday during an appearance on Fox News. “I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States secretary of state.”
In his press conference Wednesday afternoon, Obama took umbrage with this line of attack.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after someone, they should go after me,” he said. “And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the United Nations ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intel she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”
Obama also said Rice never had a choice about whether to appear on the talk shows to discuss Benghazi.
“She made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” he said.
An Obama administration official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Huffington Post that Rice was chosen to make the appearances because of her job as a top diplomat in the administration, not because of any specific knowledge of the incident.
“The administration asked her to [make the appearances],” the official said. “And here’s why: we had lost a senior diplomat, and it made sense that a senior diplomat would go out to speak to that, and contextualize it.”
Read more at www.huffingtonpost.com.