U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice continued her “charm offensive” on Wednesday, and managed to offend several more Republican senators, including the famously moderate Susan Collins of Maine. “I still have many questions that remain unanswered,” said Collins, who is the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Collins also said she was “troubled” that Rice was evidently willing to “play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential campaign.”
That’s a reference to Rice’s infamous tour of the Sunday talk shows to spread the false Administration narrative about the Benghazi attacks. All of the current drama surrounding Rice’s potential nomination to be Secretary of State is an absurd attempt by Team Obama and its media chums to avoid a very simple truth: Obama had a phony story he desperately needed to spread about Benghazi to “win” a couple of news cycles. He didn’t want questions asked about why murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens was so poorly protected in a dangerous region on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, or how the supposedly “decimated” al-Qaeda could be strong enough to launch a massive, coordinated assault against the American consulate. The President very definitely did not want probing questions asked about his Administration’s decisions during the attack, or his own behavior afterwards. And his political team sensed an opportunity to hammer Obama’s opponent in the presidential race, Mitt Romney, for daring to voice what turned out to be entirely accurate and timely criticisms as the horrors of September 11, 2012 unfolded.
So the Administration cooked up a fantastical narrative about “spontaneous video protests” that no one could have foreseen, and sent loyal political operative Susan Rice out to spread it. There’s nothing more to it. The only reason this is a big story now is that Obama sympathizers are twisting themselves into intellectual pretzels to avoid the truth, and extend ridiculous amounts of consideration to the Administration’s flimsy excuses. They’re trying to construct an alternate reality in which Susan Rice was out for a pleasant autumn stroll when she was waylaid by a pack of rogue booking agents, dragged into talk-show studios, and left to fumble her way through a couple of interviews with nothing but a set of heavily edited talking points – edited by persons as yet unknown, to remove everything the CIA knew from Minute One about terrorist involvement.
That’s utter balderdash, as Candy Crowley could tell you. Remember her? She’s the moderator who jumped in to save Obama’s bacon during the second presidential debate. Do you remember why? It was because Obama claimed he was calling the Benghazi outrage a “terrorist attack” the day after it happened. That’s not true, but Crowley managed to convince America it was. But let’s play along with Crowley and Obama for a moment, and pretend it was true. If Obama knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack within 24 hours, and was supposedly announcing it in public during Rose Garden speeches, why didn’t he tell his good friend Susan Rice before he sent her onto the Sunday talk shows a few days later? For that matter, why didn’t Susan Rice learn the truth by watching the very Rose Garden speech where Obama and Crowley insist he openly identified the attack as terrorism?
See how utterly mad you have to become, in order to accept the Administration’s defense of Rice? You have to believe entirely contradictory things. You have to believe Obama both did, and did not, know Benghazi was a terrorist attack. You have to believe he thinks the world of Susan Rice, except he never talks to her, not even during a major foreign policy crisis in which she’s been tapped to serve as the primary Administration spokeswoman. You have to believe Obama did everything possible to seriously contend with a deadly situation in Libya, but he also thought it was such a nothingburger that he turned in early, flew off to Vegas the next morning for a fundraiser, and sent someone that he now insists knew nothing about the incident to discuss it with America. And you’ve got to believe that the topic of the terrorist presence in Libya never came up during meetings of the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee of the U.N. Security Council, of which Susan Rice is a member. It takes a long walk through a hall of mirrors to forget about the obvious truth and buy into the Obama fantasies.
It sounds like Senate Republicans aren’t ready to buy a ticket to that hall of mirrors. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who will be the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he came away from his meeting with Rice thinking she was just a “loyal soldier” for Obama, while the Senate would prefer “somebody of independence” to hold the Secretary of State position. He advised the President to “step back away from all that???s happened and take a deep breath and to nominate the person that he really believes is the very best person to be secy of state for our country, regardless of relationship.”
Also on Wednesday, Senators Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, who came away from their earlier meeting with Rice in a distinctly unhappy mood, finally stated that they would be prepared to place holds on Rice’s potential nomination to Secretary of State. “If she were nominated tomorrow, I would hold her because we still have questions that have not been answered,” Ayotte told an interviewer from Politico.
There’s a lot going on here, in addition to the lingering questions about Benghazi. Many Republican senators would rather see Senator John Kerry (D-MA) as the next Secretary of State, both because they have good personal relations with him, and because his appointment would trigger a special election in Massachusetts. There’s also a personal dimension to the rather spectacular failure of Rice’s “charm offensive.” To put it bluntly, she’s not very charming. Friendly media outlets and supportive Democrats describe her as a “straight talker” or “bull in a china shop,” which is a sugar-coated way of saying that she’s got an abrasive personality. Tales of meeting with her that degenerated into shouting matches are common throughout Washington. Supposedly she once flipped the bird at the late Richard Holbrooke, the legendary diplomat who served as Bill Clinton’s man in Bosnia. If she took that attitude into her meetings with Senate critics, it’s no wonder they’re both personally offended, and doubtful that she would make a good Secretary of State.
And as the Wall Street Journal noted on Wednesday, Rice is not really all that good at her current job, ambassador to the United Nations:
Senators might also explore Ms. Rice’s broader record at the U.N. Why, for example, did she think it was appropriate to absent herself from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s September speech to the General Assembly, the purpose of which was to offer the global community a painstaking explanation of why Iran must be stopped before it can weaponize its growing stock of enriched uranium.
Then there is the matter of U.S. participation for the past three years in the U.N. Human Rights Council, alongside such paragons as China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia (soon to be replaced by Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Ivory Coast and Venezuela). Ms. Rice has continually defended America’s presence on the council while boasting to Congress that the U.S. “succeeded in getting Iran to withdraw its candidacy last year.” She omitted that, in return, the Obama administration stood aside while Iran was elected to the U.N.’s top women’s rights body, the Commission on the Status of Women.
Faced with the Human Rights Council’s obsessive condemnations of Israel, Ms. Rice told Congress in April 2011 that “the results there were worse when America sat on the sidelines. . . . Israel was relentlessly bashed.” America’s “engagement and leadership,” she said, “are paying dividends.” Yet two weeks earlier, the council had concluded its March 2011 session by adopting more resolutions bashing Israel than at any other session in its history.
There’s plenty more in the Journal piece, including criticism of Rice’s “stunningly meager” efforts on the crisis in Syria, and a rather thin defense against charges that American drone strikes violate international law. Given the general tenor of the United Nations, any “bull in a china shop” who can emerge from a stint as U.S. ambassador without sounding like John Bolton might not be the best choice to aggressively represent America’s interests as Secretary of State.