In a press conference today, President Obama said that people should “come after me,” not his Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who has taken a much of the heat for the Obama Administration’s response on Benghazi.
Reacting to rumors that Rice was the favorite to replace Secretary Hillary Clinton when she steps down at the State Department next year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday expressed dismay because of Rice’s handling of the Benghazi debacle.
“I’m not entertaining promoting anybody that I think was involved with the Benghazi debacle. We need to get to the bottom of it,” Graham said on Sunday. “The president has a lot of leeway with me and others when it comes to making appointments, but I’m not going to promote somebody who I think has misled the country or is either incompetent. That’s my view of Susan Rice.”
President Obama was deft in his response.
“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House during his first news conference since winning re-election, according to Politico. By calling on critics to come after him, Obama has the optics of taking responsibility but also gives cover to Administration officials–especially Rice–who are more easily criticized and expected to respond to Congressional oversight. It’s politically adept, if full of hot air, and with the election victory fresh, Obama has political capital to spend.
Further, Obama acknowledged that Rice had responded on the talk show circuit at his request:
“As I said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” Obama said.
In response, Graham promised to hold Obama to account.
“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,” he said in a paper statement soon after the President’s press conference. “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.”
In other news, Obama doesn’t have any evidence that the Petraeus scandal has resulted in any classified information being disclosed in a way that would hurt national security. And yet, it could be argued that we have learned more about the Petraeus affair in the last five days than we have learned about what happened with Benghazi in the last two months.
Meanwhile, right-wing pundits are skeptical.
- Video: Graham won’t promote Rice, anyone involved in Benghazi (cbsnews.com)
- Obama praises Petraeus, says he’s confident in FBI (politico.com)
- Obama dares McCain: Go after Susan Rice and ‘you’ve got a problem with me’ (rawstory.com)
- President Obama To Reward Susan Rice For Lying To The American People (redalexandriava.com)
- CBS News: Susan Rice Favorite To Replace Clinton As Secretary Of State (washington.cbslocal.com)