Republicans led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had led an all out assault on Rice over the past several weeks, suggesting that she deliberately misled the American people when she said the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans was sparked by a demonstration against an anti-Islam video (Rice said yesterday that there was no demonstration). Because of the dust-up, McCain called Rice “not very bright” and a group of House Republicans called her “incompetent.”
But Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) doesn’t believe that to be the case. While Isakson told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien this morning that the administration needs to answer questions about what happened in Benghazi, he added, referring to Rice, “what you don’t want to do is shoot the messenger.” Rice “is a very smart, very intelligent woman. I know this Ms. Rice, I think she’s done a good job as Ambassador to the U.N.,” Isakson said:
ISAKSON: Well if she is then she come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We’ll get the answers to questions and quite frankly, if we don’t get some resolution for the questions regarding Benghazi and the death of Chris Stevens, then I doubt very seriously that she would be confirmed but if we get the truth — what you don’t want to do Soledad is shoot the messenger. She read what she was told to read on those days and those five interviews on that Sunday right after Benghazi. …
She’s become the focal point because she was put on the tip of the spear by the administration. She is a very smart, very intelligent woman. I know this Ms. Rice, I think she’s done a good job as Ambassador to the U.N.
Watch the clip:
Indeed, on Sept. 16, Rice presented information given to her by the intelligence community, talking points that were approved by the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA and she consistently made it clear that what she was presenting were only initial conclusions and could still change. While some of those talking points turned out to be inaccurate, there is no evidence she intentionally gave false information. “Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in the process,” she said.
Isakson isn’t the first Republican senator to stray from McCain’s attack lines on Susan Rice. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) pushed back against McCain’s call for a Watergate-style committee to investigate the Benghazi incident.
And McCain’s top Senate ally Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) agreed with Chambliss and yesterday had differed with the Arizona Republican after conducting separate private meetings with Rice. While McCain and his allies said the meeting left them more “disturbed” about Rice and Benghazi, Lieberman offered a more favorable opinion. “I felt that she was telling me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” he said.