Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) today issued a statement essentially conceding that he was wrong in accusing the White House of changing U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s talking points on Benghazi for political purposes.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers last week that the CIA’s assessment that al Qaeda was responsible for the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi was taken out of Rice’s talking points after an interagency review. McCain and his allies then claimed the White House took out the talking points because it supposedly undercut the Obama administration’s narrative that it had severely weakened al Qaeda.
But Intelligence officials told CNN yesterday that the intelligence community was responsible for the changes made to Rice’s talking points. The Director of National Intelligence spokesperson said that the White House did not make any “substantive changes.”
McCain responded today and instead of taking issue with the substance of the report, the Arizona Republican wondered why administration and intelligence officials didn’t offer this information in closed door sessions:
“I participated in hours of hearings in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week regarding the events in Benghazi, where senior intelligence officials were asked this very question, and all of them – including the Director of National Intelligence himself – told us that they did not know who made the changes. Now we have to read the answers to our questions in the media. There are many other questions that remain unanswered. But this latest episode is another reason why many of us are so frustrated with, and suspicious of, the actions of this Administration when it comes to the Benghazi attack.”
Of course, it’s possible that the officials did not know who changed the talking points when McCain and other lawmakers asked last week, and later made inquires into the matter.
But McCain, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Republicans, has lead a proverbial witch hunt against the Obama administration and Rice, claiming that the administration deliberately misled the public about the nature of the attacks. Today’s news comes just a week after McCain went on national television and claimed that Rice’s “talking points came from the White House, not from the DNI.” He added on Fox that “I think it’s patently obvious that the talking points that Ambassador Rice had didn’t come from the CIA. It came from the White House.” For weeks, McCain has lambasted the administration for engaging in “either a cover-up or the worst kind of incompetence” on the Benghazi attack. McCain also said last week that “[e]verybody knew that it was an al Qaeda attack and she continued to tell the world through all of the talk shows [on Sept. 16] that it was a ‘spontaneous demonstration’ sparked by a video.”
McCain has also said he would block the nomination of Rice for Secretary of State, should the President choose her, saying he would “do everything in my power to block her,” that Rice is “not qualified” for the position and that “she should have known better.” He subsequently said he would bock any nominee Obama put forward.
But now that every angle of McCain’s attacks have been completely debunked, all he has left is to complain about not being told that intelligence officials didn’t give him this information sooner.