What Did Susan Rice Know and When Did She Know It?

By Bill Press

Tribune Media Services

We haven’t heard much about the “politics of personal destruction” since Bill Clinton. But if you thought the days of mean, personal, political attacks were over, just ask Susan Rice. The campaign against her — led by John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, and Fox News — is perhaps the ugliest, and most meaningless, ever.

After protestors stormed our consulate in Benghazi, Libya and killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, you’d think all Americans would unite in condemning those responsible for the attack. No way. Not in this case. Republicans, instead, led by fading divas McCain and Graham, blame UN Ambassador Susan Rice. They hold her responsible for the September 11 attack and accuse her of deliberately misleading the American people as to its causes. They are dead wrong on both counts.

First, the UN ambassador has nothing — NOTHING — to do with security at U.S. embassies around the world. That’s the job of the State Department. But, in this case, the State Department’s capacity to secure the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi was severely handicapped by deep budget cuts by House Republicans. They slashed $128 million from embassy security funding in 2011 and another $331 million in 2012 because, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told CNN, “You have to prioritize things.” Protecting our embassies was obviously not a high priority.

Second, when Ambassador Rice testified before Congress and appeared on Sunday talk shows the weekend following Benghazi, she did nothing but present “talking points” that had been prepared by the CIA at the request of Congress. And she very carefully warned that those preliminary reports might well be proven wrong. Later, in fact, when the CIA admitted removing any specific reference to possible involvement by al-Qaida sympathizers, the administration made public that information.

The truth is, even to this date, we still don’t know for sure what triggered the attacks in Benghazi, whether they were spontaneous or carefully planned, and who was responsible for the murder of four Americans. There are legitimate questions about why security wasn’t tighter and why our intelligence was faulty. But you can’t blame Susan Rice for any of it. And Republican attempts to do so are so over the top they’re embarrassing.

John McCain, for example, in what may be the dumbest thing said by any politician ever, complained that we know more about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound than we know about the raid on Benghazi. Of course we do, Einstein! Because Navy SEALs planned one of them, we knew every second what the game plan was, and President Obama and national security officials watched it on television.

McCain also said Rice, a graduate of Stanford University and a Rhodes Scholar, was “not very smart.” Rice should ask McCain, who graduated 894 out of 899 from the Naval Academy, how smart it was to pick Sarah Palin as his running-mate.

Maine’s Susan Collins must be drinking the same GOP Kool-Aid. She told reporters she couldn’t trust Rice because her response to Benghazi had an “eerie echo” of the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, when Rice was an assistant secretary of state. So now Rice is responsible for the bombings of three embassies? Mercifully, Collins stopped short of accusing Susan Rice of being on a grassy knoll in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), meanwhile, told Fox News that Rice’s response on Benghazi is going to go down as “the biggest cover-up in history.” Which is about as true as his claim that global warming is “the biggest hoax in history.” But, of course, Inhofe himself is the “biggest joke in history.”

The real question remains: Since the facts in this case are so clear, and her involvement so limited, what explains the Republicans’ obsession with trashing Susan Rice? President Obama hasn’t even nominated her as secretary of state, yet Republicans are already trying to shoot her down. Why?

There are two possibilities. Lindsey Graham may have let the cat out of the bag when he told reporters “I remember the John Bolton episode pretty well.” Could his feigned outrage be nothing but petty payback for Democrats blocking the nomination of Bolton as UN ambassador in 2005? Or are McCain and Graham simply trying to derail Susan Rice so Obama will be forced to nominate John Kerry and thereby open up a Massachusetts Senate seat for the resurrection of — Scott Brown?

Who knows? Whatever the motive, Susan Rice is just the latest target of the Republican Party’s continuing war on women.

9 Responses to What Did Susan Rice Know and When Did She Know It?

  1. Bill, your article is WAY off target. The question should be “What Did PRESIDENT OBAMA Know and When Did He Know It? You’re following the Dem talking points with this distraction that gets away from where the real focus should be – on our Commander-In-Chief.

  2. Ah, leave to Bill Press to spew the Obama talking points and as usual he is ‘dead wrong’ on all counts.
    -“They hold her responsible for the September 11 attack”…Seriously? And who daid that Susan Rice was responsible for the attack? No one Bill.
    -“deliberately misleading the American people as to its causes”…well Bill, she did. Desptie what people are saying I watched 3 of those shows and she was adament that it was all because of a youtube video and that maybe it might have been taken over by ‘a few’ extremist in the end. She did not carefully warn that the reports might be proven wrong.
    -“First, the UN ambassador has nothing — NOTHING — to do with security at U.S. embassies around the world”…no kidding. Again nobody said she did. With respect to the slashing of embassy security funding the Paris, London, and Berlin embassy had a full detachment of U.S. Marines guarding them. Are you telling me that it was more dangerous in Paris, London and Berlin than Libya? Perhaps someone in the state dept should have shifted their priorities? Just a thought.
    -“The truth is, even to this date, we still don’t know for sure what triggered the attacks in Benghazi, whether they were spontaneous or carefully planned, and who was responsible for the murder of four Americans. “…yeah we do, pre planned and linked to al-Qaida.
    -“Later, in fact, when the CIA admitted removing any specific reference to possible involvement by al-Qaida sympathizers, the administration made public that information.”…first they did, then they didn’t, then the DNI did, then he didn’t, then one of his underlings did, then they didn’t…the story keeps changing.
    -“The real question remains: Since the facts in this case are so clear,”…no they are not, unless you drink the Obama kool aid.
    -” and her involvement so limited, what explains the Republicans’ obsession with trashing Susan Rice?”…because she is a political hack who appears not to think independently but does what is the best interest of her dear leader and not the country.
    -“Susan Rice is just the latest target of the Republican Party’s continuing war on women.”..ah yes, the contrived war on women. When you can’t win on facts just call the other side names. Susan Rice is being questioned because she is the one the Obama administration put in the forefront on this. The question should be who in the administration picked her and why. If it had been jake Carney the questions would be the same. But of course you have to politicize this and make it a sexist thing instead of dealing with the facts.

    And, as kwms said, what did Obama know and when? And why didn’t we try and help them?

  3. oh baby blue, not one mention of scott brown?

    Susan Rice is not a political hack. She has had an exemplary career and has been an asset to us.
    Being smeared by two fading divas is just wrong on so many levels.
    894- a big number but so is 5- the number of jets crashed by mccain.Not to mention that big mess he made on the deck of the USS Forrestall.
    If the CIA is giving info then we’ll prolly never really know the truth. We dont care about the truth anyways, its only about clearing a path for one of their golden boys- scott brown, who lost his seat to elizabeth warren. Poor scott.waaaah!

  4. ‘…a big number but so is 5- the number of jets crashed by mccain.Not to mention that big mess he made on the deck of the USS Forrestall.’ and how is that relevant?

    ‘We dont care about the truth anyways, its only about clearing a path for one of their golden boys- scott brown, who lost his seat to elizabeth warren.’…Seeing as how Kerry is considered to be the favorite for Sec of Def if he’s not appointed Sec of State his seat is likely to vacated either way so this also is irrelevant. So yes you are correct, you don’t care about the truth, but we already knew that. Thank you for finally being honest …for once.

    More on your beloved Rice:
    From the Chicago Sun Times: “Hillary is not close to Rice, who is tough — but is not the friendliest person,” said a top White House source. “And Hillary’s brief comment recently that Rice had done ‘a great job’ was considered underwhelming and tepid,” the source added.’

    Yahoo News;
    ‘It may also indicate how sharp Clinton’s own political instincts have become. Notably, it was not Clinton who went out on the Sunday shows with those now-infamous talking points. As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote recently, Rice should have been “savvy enough to wonder why the wily Hillary was avoiding the talk shows.”’

    France24 international news: http://www.france24.com/en/20121120-usa-rice-kerry-clinton-obama-secretary-of-state-diplomacy-middle-east-asia
    ‘There are also far less influential voices of opposition to Rice. “A lot of people within the Washington DC foreign policy apparatus hate her,” said a former State Department official who wished to remain anonymous. “They think she’s overly demanding, strident, and undiplomatic in how she engages with staff under her. Right now they’re saying: ‘Oh God, I hope it’s not her!’”

    and this from Maureen Dowd:
    ‘Rice was given the toned-down talking points, but she has access to classified information. Though she told Bob Schieffer on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the extremist elements could have included Qaeda affiliates or Al Qaeda itself, she mostly used her appearances to emphasize the story line of the spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim video. She disputed the contention of the president of Libya’s General National Congress, who called the attack “preplanned” when he talked to Schieffer just before Rice.

    Some have wondered if Rice, who has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation, is diplomatic enough for the top diplomatic job. But she would have been wise to be more bull-in-a-china-shop and vet her talking points, given that members of the intelligence and diplomatic communities and sources in news accounts considered it a terrorist attack days before Rice went on the shows. (The president and his spokesman also clung to the video story for too long.)
    Rice should have been wary of a White House staff with a tendency to gild the lily, with her pal Valerie Jarrett and other staffers zealous about casting the president in a more flattering light, like national security officials filigreeing the story of the raid on Osama to say Bin Laden fought back. Did administration officials foolishly assume that if affiliates of Al Qaeda were to blame, it would dilute the credit the president got for decimating Al Qaeda? Were aides overeager to keep Mitt Romney, who had stumbled after the Benghazi attack by accusing the president of appeasing Islamic extremists, on the defensive?

    Writing in a 2002 book about President Clinton’s failure to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, Samantha Power, now a National Security Council official, suggested that Rice was swayed by domestic politics when, as a rising star at the N.S.C. who would soon become Clinton’s director for African affairs, she mused about the ’94 midterms, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?”

    I especially like that last line ‘“If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?”’, yeah thats who we want as Sec State.

    I like the way the Obamites turned on Dowd when she wrote that article. Thank goodness they’re a ‘big tent’ and ‘open minded’ party.

  5. Man oh man, Bill is embarassing himself once again. The left-wing’s defense of Susan Rice amounts to a big fat zero. Susan Rice and Barack Obama have spat in the faces of the American people with this dishonesty. No wonder KPOJ in Portland dropped Bill and the rest of the left-wing clown brigade and switched to sports talk.

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