The GOP hit on UN Ambassador Susan Rice for the Benghazi attack is not about her alleged bungling, untruthfulness, or lack of accomplishment. It's yet another GOP ploy to weaken, besmirch, and taint President Obama. Change the name from Rice to Attorney General Eric Holder and it's a virtual rerun of four years ago. Days after Obama's 2008 election victory, he publicly announced that he planned to tap Holder for the AG post. GOP senators made it clear that they would grill Holder hard on his alleged political malfeasance and cronyism in questionable pardons and assorted other actions as Deputy Attorney General in Bill Clinton's administration. As a major adviser to the Obama campaign, Holder was clearly seen as the weak link to tar the Obama administration as prone to poor and untrustworthy judgment in picking cabinet and agency appointees.
Rice is now the GOP's pawn to accomplish the same end. Obama lashed back and called the attack on Rice "outrageous." But that won't stop GOP senators from the assault on Rice's competence and character. Both GOP hits against her are absurd. The hit on Rice for Benghazi is that on talk shows she called the attack a response to an anti-Islam video. Rice did. Subsequent events showed that the video did not trigger the deadly assault. But in the weeks since the attack, and despite the relentless barrage of hints, innuendos, and inference that the White House knew the attack was a planned terrorist attack, there is no smoking gun proof that Rice or Obama knew conclusively that the attack was premeditated.
Rice simply repeated the flawed and inaccurate intelligence information that she was given. The UN Ambassador has virtually nothing to do with securing embassies, assigning military or diplomatic personnel to them, or authorizing military operations against terrorist groups. Likewise, the Secretary of State does not make foreign policy. The Secretary's role is to advise, and consent, but ultimately their charge is to implement policies and directives from the White House. Colin Powell was a prime example of what could go terribly wrong when an administration official is given duplicitous and deliberately doctored intelligence information. As Bush's Secretary of State, he was lambasted for selling the phony weapons of mass destruction line to the UN. Powell took the heat but he, like Rice, simply repeated the intelligence information he was given, Information the Bush administration cynically manipulated. Powell's job was not to make policy but to mouth policy that had already been made.
The other hit on Rice is that she's unfit for Secretary of State consideration based on her handling of Benghazi and her diplomatic record. This is even more ludicrous. Rice has brokered and helped pushed through a number of important resolutions on Libya, Iran, and North Korea, LGBT human rights, humanitarian assistance to African nations, support of peacekeeping efforts in war-torn countries, and fought hard to get a tougher UN Security Council stance on Syria. Rice has a solid record as an international affairs scholar, diplomatic consultant, her post on the National Security Council, and manager of dozens of U.S. embassies, and thousands of Foreign Service personnel. During her quarter-century of diplomatic service, Rice has consistently gotten high marks for her work.
The Benghazi events alone might not have changed that. Rice would have drawn heat, but she would not have been the intense focal point of the GOP's relentless attack. Obama's reelection is the trigger that changed that. The GOP is reeling from defeat, and as with Holder four years earlier, has no other real weapon to assault Obama with, except Rice. If the GOP can wave Rice's supposed failings before the public long and hard enough to pressure Obama not to consider, let alone, appoint her as Secretary of State, it would be a signature victory. It would embolden GOP congressional leaders to press even harder for public hearings on Benghazi, and drag Obama into an endless go-round of charges and counter charges on Benghazi and the administration's overall foreign policy initiatives and direction in the Middle East. This would fit neatly into the GOP's relentless game plan to paint the Obama administration as weak, vacillating and too conciliatory toward the Arab world. This was the constant sing-song of vanquished GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney before and during the presidential campaign.
Obama and Democrats so far have pushed back hard against the ploy. A group of House Democratic women have gone even further and branded the attack on Rice as "racist" and "sexist." And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there will be no independent Senate panel probe of Benghazi. But the GOP is unfazed by this. It hopes that its all out assault on Rice will set the stage for the confrontation that some key GOP senators are spoiling for if Obama nominates Rice as his next Secretary of State. The issue is really not Rice, but Obama.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com