As Congress continues to probe the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the conversation seems to be gradually shifting from a hothouse hunt for the scalp of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to larger questions about the security breakdown itself. Buzzfeed's John Stanton sussed out that a shift seemed imminent at the end of last week, and while Sunday's political talk shows featured Rice's betes-noires -- Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- there was a sense that cooler heads were taking over.
Most notably, McCain amigo Sen. Joe Lieberman made it clear to Fox News' Chris Wallace that he wasn't all that interested in pursuing the Susan Rice agita much further:
As I look at what we now know the intelligence community was saying that week -- and I look at Ambassador Rice's statements on television on the following Sunday morning, I don't find anything inconsistent between those two.
But, I must tell you that I think we are focusing on questions that are not insignificant but they are not the most significant. Of course, there was a terrorist attack. Whether or not there was a protest before it is interesting, but not that critical to me. There was a terrorist attack and the question is: who did it?
All of which is eminently sensible. As it happens, however, Lieberman's approach hasn't yet caught on with everybody. In fact, as Pete Kasperowicz reports over at The Hill, several lawmakers have drawn up a strongly worded letter to President Barack Obama, insisting that he not nominate Rice to be Secretary of State:
In a letter to Obama, the 97 Republicans said the credibility of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has been gravely wounded by her account of the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The letter says Rice "propagated a falsehood" that the attacks were a spontaneous response to a video that depicted the Prophet Muhammed. The administration then said more than a week later that terrorism may have played a role.
"Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter," it says. "Her actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed.
There are a few reasons that Obama won't sweat this. One is that the GOP caucus could only find 97 members to go along with this letter. Another is that members of the House of Representatives don't have anything to do with confirming the U.S. Secretary of State.
The third is though you can read this story and see that Kasperowitz writes, "the House Republican letter mirrors some of the Senate Republican criticism of Rice that has emerged," the only cited examples of "Senate Republican critics" are McCain and Graham. You can probably add Sen. Kelly Ayotte to their folie a deux, but that trio represents the Susan Rice Dead Ender Caucus.
Meanwhile, here's a key quote about Rice's potential nomination to head the State Department, criticizing all of the bitterness being thrown her way just because she made public assertions that didn't turn out to be correct:
So I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion… . I can only conclude we are doing this for no other reason than lingering bitterness at the outcome of the elections… . We all have varying policy views, but the President, in my view, has a clear right to put in place the team he believed would serve him best.
Of course, in the case of the above quote, the year was 2005, the "Rice" was Condoleezza, the incorrect assertions were that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction, and the defender ... was John McCain.
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