The Obama administration made statements that turned out to be incorrect following the September 11th attacks on American diplomats in Benghazi, and Republicans have been trying to score political victories over this ever since. The latest is over the likely nomination of Susan Rice as Obama’s second term Secretary of State. Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have emerged as the point people of Republican opposition, and they have shown willingness to lead Republican opposition to Rice’s confirmation. Rice met with Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, Republican senator of New Hampshire to discuss her statements over the Benghazi attack. All three emerged from their meetings with Rice “significantly troubled” (McCain), “more troubled” (Ayotte), and “more disturbed now than I was before,” (Graham). These three are leading the charge that everyone knew quickly that these were terrorist attacks, and Rice must have had some ulterior motive for saying that they weren’t. Rice released this statement after the meeting:
While, we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved. We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved.
Rice is not the first target that the G.O.P. has gone after over Benghazi—that would be President Obama. Mitt Romney tried to make a big deal out of it during the third presidential debate, but Obama was able to outflank him, because he used the word “terror” in his statements following the attacks. Romney wasn’t able to make much headway, and neither the attacks or the administration’s response had much effect on the elections.
It was only after the election that the attention turned to Rice, who, along with Press Secretary Jay Carney among others, had initially said that the attacks appeared to spontaneously emerge out of protests over a video offensive to Muslims. Others had made the same statement, but only Rice was in the precarious position of potentially needing to be confirmed by the senate, something which will need the partial cooperation of five Republican senators, something that might be difficult given how united the G.O.P. has been in blocking and stalling confirmation of Obama’s nominees, even some who are less controversial.