Three Republican senators who have previously said they will filibuster the appointment of U.N. envoy Susan Rice as secretary of State if President Obama nominates her reiterated and reinforced their objections Tuesday. The three—Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and John McCain—spoke briefly to the press after meeting behind closed doors with Rice and acting CIA Director Mike Morrell to discuss statements she made after the lethal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 11.
All three have previously said they don't trust Rice because her comments did not, they say, match classified information available almost immediately after the attack, which tied it to al Qaeda, not a spontaneous protest over a crude anti-Muslim film that turned into a riot and the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The problem with their characterization of Rice's comments is that they don't match what she actually said.
Let's hope Rice brought her own tape recorder to their meeting.
Making himself crystal clear about his views on Rice's rumored nomination to replace Hillary Clinton, who is leaving the secretary of state post, Graham invoked the name of ultrahawk John Bolton. He was the over-the-top, acid-tongued U.S. envoy to the United Nations for 16 months thanks to a recess appointment under George W. Bush. Bolton, a relentless critic of the U.N. who sneers at international law and has said, in effect, that treaties should only be observed when the United States wants to do so, resigned in December 2006 when his appointment would have expired because it seemed almost certain that the objections of Democratic senators to his nomination would mean he would not be confirmed.
Bottom line: I’m more disturbed now than I was before that the 16 September explanation of how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice I think does not do justice to the reality at the time and in hindsight clearly was completely wrong. [...]As she was leaving, Ayotte said of Rice: "I would hold her nomination until I had additional answers to questions." Michael Tomasky at the DailyBeast took that to possibly mean she would put an official "hold" on Rice's nomination as opposed to merely blocking it in the usual manner. That would be a major move, probably unprecedented for the nomination of a secretary of State.
If you don’t know what happened, just say you don’t know what happened. People can push you to give explanations and you can I don't want to give bad information. Here's what I can tell you, the American people got bad information on 16 September, they got bad information from President Obama days after, and the question is: Should they have been giving the information at all? If you can do nothing but give bad information, isn’t it better to give no information at all? So my belief is not only is the information bad—and I am more my convinced than ever that it was bad, it was unjustified to give the scenario as presented by Ambassador Rice and President Obama three weeks before an election.
[He later added:] Before anybody can make an intelligen[t] decision about promoting someone involved in Benghazi, we need to do a lot more (investigating). To this date we don’t have the FBI interviews of the survivors conducted one or two days after the attack. We don't have the basic ifnromation about what was said of the night of attack that's been shared with Congress as of this date. [...]
Democrats dug in their heels [on John Bolton], saying we're not going to vote, we're not going to consider this nomination until we get basic answers to our concerns.
All I can tell you is that the concerns I have are greater today than they were before but we're not even close to getting the basic answers.
In addition to these three, another Republican senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, was making noises Tuesday about whether Rice should be confirmed if she is nominated:
"When I hear Susan (Rice) talk, she sounds to me like she'd be a great head of the Democratic National Committee,” Corker told reporters at the Capitol. “There's nobody who's more staff supportive of everything the administration does. That concerns me in a secretary of State. You want a secretary of State who obviously works with the administration but also shows the ability to be independent, and I'm not sure I see that second part.”President Obama has not said whether he will actually nominate Rice but has given her glowing praise for her foreign affairs skills in general and her representing the United States at the United Nations in particular. She would be a good person for many high posts, he has said. Press Secretary Jay Carney took note of that praise again Monday.
The last time the Senate rejected a nominee for a cabinet post was in 1989, when it voted against President George H.W. Bush's nomination of John Tower for secretary of defense. At the time the Senate was in Democratic hands.