During the press conference, Graham and fellow Republican senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte called for a Select Committee to investigate the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya and Graham said he wouldn’t vote for Rice to become Secretary of State, arguing that her handling of the Benghazi attacks is similar to when the Bush administration misled the American public on the course of the war in Iraq:
GRAHAM: Somebody has got to start paying a price around this place. And back to the Bush administration. When we went to Iraq, we came back and said there are more than a few dead-enders. What they’re telling you, the Bush administration, about the level of security in Iraq doesn’t match what we see. And I voted against General Casey, because I didn’t think he deserved to be promoted after the way he did his job in Iraq. I don’t think that she deserves to be promoted. There are a lot of qualified people in this country the president could pick. But I am dead-set in making sure that we don’t promote anyone that was involved in the Benghazi debacle.
Watch Graham’s statement here:
But of course Graham’s comparison between the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq and the Obama administration’s response to Benghazi makes no sense. On the one hand, Bush administration officials, despite the obvious evidence, were saying the situation in Iraq was better than it was (one Bush official even admitted the administration was looking at Iraq through “rose colored glasses”). By contrast, the investigation into what happened in Benghazi is ongoing. When Ambassador Rice spoke to the public on Sept. 16, she presented the intelligence community’s initial assessment with a strong dose of hedging and provisos that the description of events may change as facts emerge. Rice was using available information to explain what happened. For that, Graham, McCain and others in the GOP have relentlessly attacked Susan Rice to tar her as being untrustworthy. President Obama, while not ruling out whether he would nominate, hit back against McCain and Graham for attacking Rice during this afternoon’s press conference.
And in terms of voting for a cabinet member with questionable credentials, back in 2005, Graham and McCain themselves were singing a different tune. They defended President Bush’s nomination of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her central role in spreading the false intelligence that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction.