Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain didn’t waste any time responding to President Obama’s claim that they are “going after” Susan Rice because “they think she’s an easy target.”
In a statement, Graham blasted both Obama and Rice, saying she’s “up to [her] eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle”:
“Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.
“We owe it to the American people and the victims of this attack to have full, fair hearings and accountability be assigned where appropriate. Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.”
On Greta Van Susteren last night, McCain pushed back on the president’s comments, calling them “juvenile”:
MCCAIN: You know, it’s interesting for the president to say something that juvenile. I’m not picking on anyone. Again, as we just said, four Americans died! Is that picking on anybody when you want to place responsibility and find out what happened so that we can make sure it doesn’t happen again?
And you know, it’s not a bad life being ambassador to the U.N. You have a nice suite in the Waldorf-Astoria and look pretty good. An so this — why they used her as their spokesperson on all the major networks that Sunday is still beyond me, but they did. And she…
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the president said today that…
MCCAIN: And she used talking points from the White House. So we’re not picking on her. But we are holding her to some degree responsible. But have no doubt, we are holding the President of the United States responsible. And he is responsible and he has not — he has given contrasting versions of events to the American people.
Could I just remind you real quick — September 21, in the Rose Garden, he said it was, quote, “acts of terror.” That same night, he said to Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes,” it’s too early to know exactly how this came about. On September 20th, we’re still doing an investigation. September 24th, on “The View,” we’re still doing an investigation. And then before the United Nations on September 25th, “a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.”
Now, he said that on September 25th. In the second debate, with Mitt Romney, he said, I called it an act of terror in the Rose Garden. He didn’t. He condemned acts of terror in the Rose Garden. And if he did, how come he told the United Nations a couple of weeks later that it was a senseless video that sparked a demonstration, when he knew full well there was no spontaneous demonstration?
So my response to the President of the United States is we’re not picking on anybody. We want answers, and the buck does stop at your desk, Mr. President.
Assuming Rice is the nominee, this will all play out during the confirmation fight. Obama may be hoping he can keep Senate Democrats in line by framing GOP criticism of Rice as an unfair partisan attack. And it’s possible he can pick off some moderate Republicans with this strategy, too, who might be worried about clashing with a newly-reelected president over a “politicized” issue.
But it’s still notable that Obama would be so intent on appointing Rice, given all of her Benghazi baggage. It’s true she’s one of his longest-serving advisors, and he seems to have a much warmer relationship with her than he has with Hillary Clinton (or John Kerry, for that matter). But you’d think it would save him a lot of grief to just choose another option.