The news of Rice’s promotion, and current NSA Tom Donilon’s departure from the White House, leaked early Wednesday morning, prompting members of the GOP to move fast to condemn the decision. At the heart of their condemnation is their on-going belief that Rice purposefully lied when she appeared on several Sunday morning news shows last September to explain the administration’s current knowledge about an attack on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Several of the points Rice made were later refuted, leading to the multitude of claims that she helped in the Obama administration’s alleged “cover-up.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has previously put forward his own interesting theories about what Benghazi was really about, slammed Rice on Fox News on Wednesday, questioning the President’s choice to “reappoint or promote basically the person who is guilty of misleading us over the Benghazi tragedy.” “How are they going to have the authority to have people believe what they’re saying when he is promoting someone who directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi?” Paul asked a sympathetic Fox host.
On the other side of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also panned the choice to move Rice to the White House. “I am sure she is a nice person but she lacks judgment,” Chaffetz told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “She claims to have read the daily intelligence brief and anyone who was following what was happening in Libya would have known terrorism was likely a factor in the incident in Benghazi,” he said, before claiming that “she used her good name to try to convince the American people of this bogus story.”
But not one shred of evidence has ever emerged that Rice was ever involved in any sort of cover-up related to Benghazi (nor is there a shred of evidence that a cover-up took place). Susan Rice was not a participant in the emails related to the construction of the talking points she ultimately used that the White House released last month. Instead, those emails revealed what amounts to a turf war between the CIA and the State Department over who should be at fault for the lack of security present in Benghazi the night of the attack.
Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, new information regarding the nature of the attack became apparent to the intelligence community just hours before she made her media appearances. Even if it hadn’t, Rice was careful to caveat her language when speaking about Benghazi. “We’ll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that’s the best information we have at present,” she told ABC’s George Stephanopolous on Sept. 16.
Rice was considered a top contender to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State before her appearances, which were later used as the basis of a smear campaign against her. The ambassador removed herself from the running to be named Secretary, leaving the path open for John Kerry to obtain the appointment. Rumors have persisted for months that Rice would soon move to the National Security Council, a role that needs no Senate confirmation, during Obama’s second term.
Not all Republicans seem ready to work themselves up over this appointment, compared to the fury they unleashed at the possibility of Rice taking over at Foggy Bottom. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Foreign Policy last month that he wasn’t interested in a fight over Rice moving to the take over at the National Security Council. “In the case of national security advisor,” he said, “whomever serves in that position serves at the pleasure of the president. So it’s totally his prerogative.”
Similarly, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who led the smear campaign against Rice, said on Twitter on Wednesday that he disagrees with Obama’s decision to appoint Rice “but I’ll make every effort to work w/ her on imp’t issues.”
In the end, Rice is moving to a position that potentially has more sway over designing foreign policy than the State Department. This will be something of a homecoming for Rice, who previously served as a young staffer on the National Security Council during the first Clinton administration, working on Africa policy. Samantha Power, formerly the National Security Staff’s senior director for multilateral affairs, will reportedly be named to take over Rice as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.