While the importance of Benghazi-Gate extends far beyond Susan Rice, the stakes for her are especially high. She is Obama’s personal choice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For the President, if this truly is the proverbial “ditch” in which he has decided to fight to the death, its outcome will greatly impact how successful he will be in moving his second-term agenda forward on a number different issues.
On paper, Susan Rice clearly is qualified to serve as Clinton’s successor at Foggy Bottom – Stanford University, Rhodes Scholar, National Security Council, and youngest-ever Assistant Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. She is accurately described as tough, smart and, according one biography, unafraid to offer “direct” and “plainspoken” assessments.
Why then is there such controversy swirling around her potential nomination to State, based on clearly erroneous assessments of what happened in the Benghazi attack offered publicly by her in the tragedy’s aftermath? The answer to this series of questions actually is rather straightforward and simple.
Rice inserted herself into the eye of the Benghazi hurricane, and became the face of the Obama Administration’s efforts to downplay and explain away the attacks in the final weeks leading to the November 6th election. No Republican Senator or Representative forced Rice into what turned out to be the unenviable position of describing the Benghazi attack as nothing more than a spontaneous response to an obscure film with anti-Islamic overtones. She either chose to enter the fray (perhaps hoping to burnish her credentials in anticipation of an Obama win), or she was too weak to resist efforts by others in the Administration to push her into the front lines so they could stand in the shadows and not be tarnished.
Either way, legitimate questions are raised about Rice’s judgment and about her ability to operate in the tough, complex political milieu in Washington.
The explanation by Obama and others, that Rice should not be criticized for her post-Benghazi statements because she was “just reading the talking points that had been given to her,” are equally devoid of merit. Do we want or need someone as Secretary of State who blithely reads talking point stuck in front of her, regardless of their merits or whether they make sense?
The answer to this and related questions clearly is “No”; and Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate must use their considerable powers to withhold funds, block nominations, and subpoena witnesses to get to the bottom of this fundamental foreign policy and national security debacle. If they don’t, who will?