At the first presidential press conference held in months and after President Obama's re-election, a wide range of topics was covered, but none generated the passion and anger like the question about Susan Rice and Republicans' attacks on her this morning, particularly Lindsey Graham and John McCain.
As background, Susan Rice went on the Sunday shows the week of the Benghazi attacks and repeated what she had been given through intelligence reports, which included the claim that the attacks were the result of Muslim objections to an anti-Islam video put up on YouTube. We all know now this is not the case; however, that has not stopped them from going after Susan Rice with vicious intensity.
The president was angry as he responded to the question. Here's what he said, via Washington Post:
“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody they should go after me,” Obama said. “For them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi…to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
Lindsey Graham shot this back just after that moment:
Graham responded to Obama’s comments by e-mail just as the press conference concluded. “Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi,” Graham said in a statement. “I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.”
Graham, McCain and Kelly Ayotte are threatening to hold Watergate-style hearings on the whole Benghazi attack. Evidently they saw a new memo that said it's perfectly all right to criticize our leaders here at home and abroad while in the middle of sensitive diplomacy when it's the other guy.
Update: Just for some memory refreshes, here is McCain and Graham's vigorous defense of Condoleeza Rice and her false claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But in 2005, Graham was fiercely protective of Rice as she faced confirmation to take over the State Department, chaffing at terms used by Democratic lawmakers to describe her testimony.
"The words like ‘misleading’ and ‘disingenuous,’ I think, were very unfair," Graham said on Fox News.
Asked if then-Sen. Mark Dayton's use of the word "liar" was justified, Graham pounced.
"Yes, that's even more unfair. Because it was all in terms of weapons of mass destruction and misleading us about the war and what was in Iraq. Well, every intelligence agency in the world was misled. And to connect those two to say that she's a liar is very unfair, over the line."
Before the vote, McCain noted from the Senate floor that the chamber had enough votes to confirm Rice to the job, questioning why Democrats wanted to debate her nomination.
"So I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion," he said, adding that Rice is qualified for the job. "I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election."
Yes, I think we could probably draw a similar conclusion about McCain & Co's unwarranted attacks on Susan Rice, couldn't we?