The partisan right has been trying to pin a scandal onto the Obama administration for two years now. It is an age-old non-partisan part of the American political landscape. Presidential scandals are notorious for bringing down administrations, and make for good copy in the press. An opposing party can leverage a good political scandal to build an entire platform to elevate its candidates to offices throughout the government and foster its policy, rhetoric, and platform. The right has gone after Department of Energy head Steven Chu for his comments about “allowing gas prices to rise;” comments that he made before accepting his position and subsequently and admittedly changed after starting his new job. They have gone after Attorney General Eric Holder, citing his alleged involvement with the “Fast and Furious” program operated locally without his approval or knowledge. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is the latest Obama appointee to be in the cross hairs of the right’s hunting rifle.
The partisan witch-hunt for Ambassador Rice continues to be aggressively and politically pursued by Republicans hell bent on tagging some Obama appointee with the hint and smear of incompetency and scandal. Rice has come under fire for her passive role in presenting the administration’s talking point position on the Benghazi attack. It was Rice’s job to go in front of the press and be the initial face of the administration in the immediate aftermath of the attack. Rice appeared on five Sunday morning talk shows and dutifully adhered to the administration position that the information currently available led the intelligence community to believe that the Benghazi attack was provoked by an insulting video denigrating the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
On Friday, it was revealed that Rice was given two versions of the intelligence report: a classified version and an unclassified version. It appears that the classified version may have included references to a terrorist organization as being the behind the attacks. The talking points briefing that was given to Rice did not contain this reference. It is not clear at this point who made the decision to remove the terror organization reference from the talking points.
The “unclassified talking points were read to reporters on the hill on Friday,” according to CNN. This has sparked a new partisan debate. Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on the talking points that were presented to them in closed sessions. Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN, “basically it is still not clear how the final talking points emerged.” King quoted General Petraeus as testifying, “the original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out.”
The attack against Rice is an obvious attempt by the Republicans and the right to gain a victory against Obama. Rice is a stellar diplomat, with impeccable credentials (she is a Rhodes Scholar and graduated at the top of her class at Stanford) and is a leading candidate to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Republicans, like Senator John McCain have vowed to block her nomination should it come before the Senate committee. USA Today reported that in an appearance on Fox and Friends, McCain said, “I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State.” Project 21 Kevin Martin has called Rice “a political hack.” Martin argues that this is not the first time that Rice has put political expediency above honesty and integrity. He states that during the Clinton administration Rice advised the administration to not describe the events in Rwanda as “genocide” because of its impact on Clinton’s reelection campaign. The Project 21 article noted that Rice “denied” the accusation in an “extensive” interview in The Atlantic.
All of the opposition to Rice is not from the right. Dana Milbank writing for the Washington Post said Rice is an “undiplomatic diplomat.” Milbank hinted that Rice has made her fair share of enemies and stepped on a few toes. He said, “even in a town that rewards sharp elbows and brusque personalities, Rice has managed to make an impressive array of enemies — on Capitol Hill, in Foggy Bottom and abroad.”
President Obama and others have come to the defense of Rice. In his first press conference after the election, CBS quoted Obama as saying, “to go after [Rice], who had nothing to do, with Benghazi and besmirch her reputation is outrageous.” The Washington Post wrote that female members of the House have voiced their support saying, “to batter this woman because they don’t feel they have the ability to batter President Obama is something we the women are not going to stand by and watch.”