McCain Backs Off Susan Rice Smear Campaign

Shortly after news broke about a fatal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused President Obama of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks.” And Romney continued to make Benghazi-related attacks a centerpiece of his campaign even after his efforts were debunked and widely condemned.

Mitt Romney lost. But that has not prevented Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) from picking up this torch. Shortly after Romney conceded his loss earlier this month, McCain set his sites on UN Ambassador Susan Rice, a likely nominee to succeed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Pointing to several television appearances where Rice communicated the intelligence community’s as-yet imperfect understanding of what happened during the Benghazi attacks, McCain promised that “I will do everything in my power to block her from becoming Secretary of State.”

On Fox News Sunday this morning, however, McCain sang a much more conciliatory tune, backing off his hardline opposition to Rice:

HOST: You say that you will do everything in your power to block Susan Rice’s nomination if the President decides to name her to be secretary of state . . . . Is there anything that Ambassador Rice can do to change your mind?

MCCAIN: Sure, she can give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. And I’ll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her. Why did she say that al Qaeda has been decimated in her statement here on this program? Al Qaeda hasn’t been decimated. They’re on the rise. They’re all over Iraq.

Watch it:

If McCain isn’t sure why Rice said that al Qaeda has been decimated, he may want to ask Osama bin Laden. When he fails at that, he can then ask the National Counterterrorism Center, which found that “a 16 percent drop in successful attacks by the al Qaeda network; a 65 percent drop in successful attacks by the al Qaeda network outside Africa; and a 35 percent drop in casualties caused by al Qaeda” in just the period from May 2011 until May 2012. Twenty-two senior-level al Qaeda operatives and leaders were captured or killed in the same one year window.

Regardless, hopefully today’s more conciliatory statement is a sign that McCain will back off his efforts to inject partisan politics into our nation’s security.