Appearing on CNN, Collins hammered home various GOP talking points about concerns that Rice may have acted overly political in providing an overview of the Obama administration’s knowledge in the aftermath of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and said that damaged Rice’s credibility to be the top State Department official:
COLLINS: It’s important that the secretary of state enjoy credibility around the world with Congress and here in our country as well. And I am concerned that Susan Rice’s credibility may have been damaged by the misinformation that was presented that day. That’s one reason, as I said, that I wish she had just told the White House no, you should send a political person to be on those Sunday shows.
Collins’ statements throughout the day on Wednesday, on CNN and elsewhere, leave several questions unanswered. The first is why the focus on a nominee’s judgement is so much more important now than in 2004 and 2005. Shortly after President Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice to be the next Secretary of State in November, 2004, Collins praised the move, saying Bush “made a very good choice.” Collins, in turn, voted for her confirmation along with almost all of her Republican colleagues.
Condoleezza Rice had spent many months prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq convincing the public of the threat that Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction program presented to the United States, including famously stating that “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Her statements led the U.S. into a war in Iraq that will end up costing the U.S. trillions of dollars and leaving tens of thousands dead or wounded. We knew by the time Condoleezza Rice was nominated that there were no WMDs in Iraq.
Another question to ask is why Rice’s name is now being brought up in relation to a set of Embassy bombings from 14 years ago. Collins earlier on Wednesday said, “What troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998, when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department.”
The bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by Al Qaeda was a tragedy, one that took place during Rice’s time as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Clinton administration. She has since made clear that she did not have a role in approving requests for embassy security during her tenure when the embassy bombings took place. This clearly did not prevent Collins from heaping praise on Rice in 2009, over a decade after the attack, when Rice was being vetted for her current role as U.N. Ambassador.
Susan Rice has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill over the past two days in an attempt to smooth over raw feelings between herself and the Republican Party and has won over some GOP senators. It is disappointing that some Republicans remain stuck in campaign mode and have delighted in taking aim at her and her potential nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.