Since the election, it’s been widely reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intends to retire in the next few weeks. Speculation about her possible replacement is currently focused on Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations. In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th of this year, Rice initially stated on television that the attacks were due to protest over an anti-Muslim YouTube video, though it has been determined to have been a well-coordinated terrorist attack.
Republicans sought before the election to blow the Benghazi affair up into as large a scandal as possible for perfectly understandable political reasons. Now that the election is over, that motive still exists but with a longer view–and congressional Republicans are still pushing the issue. And to a point, they should. Democrats too are interested in fully accounting for what happened.
Unfortunately, as the Washington Post reported last week, Republicans are taking a reasonable point of inquiry way too far, and making a joke of their oversight responsibility:
97 House Republicans co-signed a letter this week warning President Obama that Rice’s public comments after the attack on the mission in Benghazi “caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world.”
The members also told Obama that making Rice “the face of U.S. foreign policy” in the coming years as his next secretary of state “would greatly undermine your desire to improve U.S. relations with the world and continue to build trust with the American people.”
“Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter,” the lawmakers wrote. “Her actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed.”
Signers of this letter include Colorado Reps. Cory Gardner and Doug Lamborn.
In an editorial today, USA TODAY outlines the stupidity, not to mention the almost comical hypocrisy, of Republicans going after Rice over her early comments about the Benghazi attack:
Working from talking points put together by intelligence officials and later edited by others, Rice peddled the story that the attack sprang from a spontaneous protest, spurred by an anti-Muslim video produced by an American.
That account turned out to be wrong, but it’s hardly a reason to block Rice’s potential nomination. After all, if misleading comments based on flawed intelligence were disqualifying, Colin Powell would have been forced to resign as George W. Bush’s secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice never would have succeeded Powell. Powell’s powerful speech before the United Nations in 2003, proclaiming proof of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, helped push the United States into a misguided war. Condoleezza Rice also touted the story line about Iraq’s supposed nuclear program, warning on CNN that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” No such weapons were found.
Susan Rice’s comments about events in Benghazi are at best a sideshow. Instead of obsessing about what she said on TV after the tragedy, lawmakers ought to be more concerned about finding out what went wrong and preventing a repeat. Why weren’t security warnings heeded and requests for more protection granted? As U.N. ambassador, Rice most likely had zero involvement with those decisions.
1. Even if they’re right, they’re going after the wrong person, and
2. How quickly they forget.
There’s another dimension to this story that we do want to address, though. Following the GOP’s letter and media tour against Susan Rice, who is African-American, some Democrats angrily reacted to singling her out for criticism. Rep. James Clyburn accused Republicans who signed the letter noted above of employing “racial code words,” in part by describing Susan Rice, a Rhodes scholar with a resumé to match anyone’s, as “incompetent.”
Without a doubt, the resumés of politicians such as our own Cory Gardner and Doug Lamborn seem quite humble compared to Rice. And after the election we just had, where women and minority voters played a key role in GOP defeats around the nation, making your first big post-election splash by attacking a black woman really seems like a stupid thing to do–doesn’t it?
Bottom line: we’re not going to allege that Gardner and Lamborn had racist or sexist ulterior motives in signing on to this letter. But just as they have the right to throw around specious charges ripe for political backfire, you all have the right to think whatever you want about their motives. And the stereotype reinforced by this episode…is not about Susan Rice.