Obama Concedes Defeat on Susan Rice
When a full-blown investigation into Benghazi just isn't worth it.
Yesterday, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice withdrew herself from consideration to be the next Secretary of State. In a letter to the president obtained by NBC News, Rice contended that her nomination process “would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” she wrote. “The tradeoff is simply not worth it to our country.” Later in the letter she aimed an obvious jab at Republicans who opposed her nomination. “The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized,” she contended.
Yet it was Rice who put herself in the position to bear the brunt of GOP criticism regarding the debate in Benghazi. Five days after the attack, Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows peddling the administration's initial lie that the murder of ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans was the result of a spontaneous demonstration precipitated by the “Innocence of Muslims" video. "What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video,” Rice said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”
When that story fell apart, Rice contended that she had relied on the best information immediately following the attack, provided to her by the intelligence community. “I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers,” she said on November 21 at the United Nations.
By then Rice had already incurred the wrath of Republican Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). On November 14, they promised a Watergate-style investigation of Benghazi, and pledged to block her nomination, if Obama chose her to succeed Hillary Clinton. On the same day, the president angrily defended Rice against her critics. “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.” That statement engendered an obvious question: if Rice had nothing to do with Benghazi, why was she the point person sent out to explain it to the American public? (An answer has not been forthcoming).
Other Democrats hopped on board, attempting to characterize all criticism of Rice as racist and sexist. “All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) the next chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. McCain and others.”
On November 27, Rice met with her critics in an effort to mend fences. It did not go well, with all three saying their concerns about her misleading statements had actually intensified. “The bottom line is that I'm more disturbed than I was before … about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya,” Graham contended.
Soon after that, other questions about Rice's qualifications for the job began to be raised. The New York Times ran an article revealing that UN officials believe Rice is trying to shield the Rwandan government, and its president, Paul Kagame, from international censure, for their support of rebel groups precipitating “atrocities and brutal killings” in the Congo. The Washington Free Beacon reported that financial disclosure forms showed Rice had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in several energy companies known for doing business with Iran. Breitbart News ran a column entitled “Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Susan Rice,” detailing a pattern of dubious behavior and lying going as far back as the Clinton administration. Highlights include Rice urging the administration not to call the Rwandan massacres genocide, fearful of the political impact on U.S. congressional elections in 1994; her efforts to block cooperation with the Sudanese government, even as they had offered to hand over Osama Bin Laden; her role at the UN, marked by chronic absenteeism and criticism of Israel; and, finally, her role in the Benghazi disinformation campaign.
Even as the truth about Bengahzi began to unfold, due to the tireless efforts of people like Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin, CBS reporter Sharryl Attkisson, Breitbart and countless others, the president continued to support Rice. Even as the White House announced that Rice withdrew her name from consideration, the president rose to her defense. “While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first,” Obama said. “The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country,” he added.
Far more likely is the reality that the president is trying to put a losing issue for his administration to rest as easily as possible and trying to portray himself as higher than the fray while doing it. As Fox's Christian Whiton notes, it was “highly odd conduct” for the president to announce that Rice had withdrawn herself from consideration to be Secretary of State, “because Rice was never nominated. In instances like this, presidents usually just nominate someone else and decline to discuss discarded possibilities for appointments,” he writes.
He further contends that Rice likely would have been confirmed as Secretary of State because moderate Democrats “are long gone from Washington,” and “the partisan liberals who remain never break party lines on matters like this.” As for the Republicans, “the last thing they wanted was a confirmation hearing that inevitably would be construed by the media as unfair treatment of a black woman, even a demonstrably mendacious one.”
Despite that reality, he and others reach the obvious conclusion regarding why the president “blinked”: while Rice may have indeed been nominated, the distinct possibility that her confirmation hearings could have morphed into a full-blown investigation of the Benghazi debacle was likely a bridge too far for an administration that has, thus far, been enormously successful in keeping that debacle largely off the public's radar. The clampdown has been so thorough that, as reported by Breitbart, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) reveals he has been “thwarted” by the State Department from seeing any of the Americans who survived the Benghazi attack, some of whom were badly injured and are still recovering.
A high-profile confirmation would have changed that dynamic, especially for a mainstream media that has demonstrated a deplorable indifference regarding the deaths of four Americans, and the ever-changing narrative that followed. That would be the same mainstream media already characterizing Rice as a “victim” of right-wing “advocacy media." "This was all driven, in many cases, by some conservative outlets who were making her the center of the Benghazi story,” said NBC News' Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. “She sort of became a victim of this.”
Nonsense. Rice is no victim of anything other than her own willingness to shill for the Obama administration during a critical moment during the presidential election campaign. And what Todd calls advocacy media bears a striking resemblance to something he and many other network hacks only practice when there is a Republican administration embroiled in a scandal: genuine, no-holds barred investigative journalism that leads wherever it leads. Right now it is inexorably leading towards a showdown with the White House – one the president desperately wants to avoid.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.