“‘Odder still’ is Sen. Susan Collins” on Susan Rice

Several U.S. Senators have been extremely critical of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, a possible nominee for Secretary of State.

(By the way, Susan Rice has some interesting Maine ties.)

These critics complain that Rice used the approved, unclassified talking points when talking about the attacks on Americans at Benghazi, Libya.

Now, if Rice had used classified information that had not been cleared for release, that would have been highly inappropriate, and the same senators very well may have attacked her for that reason.

Also, CIA officials have testified that the picture of events was hazy at first.  When they were clearer about the connection to terrorism, they didn’t want their knowledge to be public, as not to tip off the attackers about what they knew. They believed that not letting the attackers in on U.S. intelligence conclusions would better enable them to capture the attackers and prevent future violence against Americans and U.S. allies.

In any case, one surprise to national observers is the reaction of Senator Susan Collins, who appears to have shifted toward the critical perspective of Senators McCain and Graham.

One analyst writes:

Odder still is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said on Wednesday, “I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of the contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration’s position.” Imagine that! A senior administration official presenting her administration’s position!

“What troubles me so much,” Collins went on, “is that the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on [two U.S. embassies in Africa] in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department.” . . .

I don’t recall anyone blaming Rice for those attacks at the time, nor anyone blaming, say, the assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs when terrorists blew up the U.S. Marine base in Lebanon in 1983.

This is where sheer hypocrisy enters the picture. In 2005, when President Bush nominatedCondoleezza Rice as secretary of state, many Democrats hammered her for making misleading remarks about Saddam Hussein’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Bear in mind that Rice had been Bush’s national security adviser, front and center during the WMD hype, not a peripheral figure like U.N. ambassador. Yet who stood up for that Rice most fervently in the Senate? Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

Those critiques from Senator Collins do seem rather odd, as does her touting of another possible nominee for Secretary of State, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.

If Kerry was appointed, this would open up his senate seat, possibly enabling a Republican to win it in a special election.

The entire set of responses involve a push-back to President Obama, who convincingly won re-election. (Besides the substantial electoral college win, in the still not fully completed count, Romney has 47.4% of the vote and Obama 50.9%.)

Politically, criticizing Rice is clearly a good move for Senator Graham, who is not trusted by the tea party elements in his home state of South Carolina, where he will be on the ballot in 2014.

While Collins has been very well-liked in Maine, in part because she has been seen as somewhat independent from her party, this reputation could be undermined if her actions look too partisan and political.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.