Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is threatening to place a hold on key administration national security nominations unless President Obama explains how the White House reacted to the Benghazi attacks and who “changed” the talking points used by U.N. ambassador Susan Rice during back-to-back appearances on the Sunday political talk shows in September.
Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, Graham insisted that Republicans shouldn’t “allow Brennan to go forward for the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed to Secretary of Defense, until the White House gives us an accounting.” “Did the president ever pick up the pohne and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks,” Graham asked. “What did the president do?”:
BOB SCHIEFFER (HOST): I’m not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don’t give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these two nominations?
GRAHAM: Yes…How could Susan Rice come on to your show and say there’s no evidence of a terrorist attack when the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said they knew that night? I think that was a misleading narrative three weeks before our election.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just make sure, because you’re about to make some news here, I think. You are saying that you are going to block the nominations — you’re going to block them from coming to a vote until you get an answer to this? Now, John McCain has already said he doesn’t think the Republicans ought to filibuster this. What will you do? You’re just going to put a hold on it? […]
GRAHAM: I want to know who changed the talking points. Who took the references to Al Qaeda out of the talking points given to Susan Rice? We still don’t know…. I want to know what our president did. What did he do as commander in chief? Did he ever pick up the phone and call anybody? I think this is the stuff the country needs to know.
Since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey testified before Congress last week, conservatives have seized on a portion of the testimony to argue that President Obama went “AWOL” the night of the Benghazi attack.
The GOP has touted a portion in the hearing during which Panetta said that he did not personally communicate with Obama, but ignore further testimony during which Dempsey stressed that the White House was focused on the Benghazi attack and Obama’s staff was engaged “pretty constantly through the period, which is the way it would normally work.” As Panetta put it, “The president is well-informed about what is going on; make no mistake about it.”
The unclassified talking points as presented by Rice were edited through an interagency process, wherein the CIA itself removed the references to al-Qaeda. Graham, along with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ) led the charge in attacking Rice, blaming her at times for not revealing classified information during her Sunday show appearances.