President Barack Obama angrily lashed out against two key Republican senators who criticized Susan Rice earlier in the day, calling their attacks on his U.N. ambassador “outrageous.”
In his first formal meeting with reporters since his re-election last week, the president strongly defended Rice from criticisms made earlier in the day by Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) over her role in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama told the White House reporters. “I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador? Who had nothing to do with Benghazi? To besmirch her reputation? It’s outrageous.
“When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”
The remarks by McCain and Graham came Wednesday morning at The Washington Ideas Forum, a conference hosted by The Atlantic. In an interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News, the senators were asked whether they would oppose Rice’s nomination as Hillary Clinton’s successor as Secretary of State as has been rumored in recent days.
Clinton has long insisted that she will not stay on and serve a second term as Secretary of State.
McCain, who fell short in his own presidential bid when he lost to Obama in 2008, said that he felt she was effectively disqualified from the position.
Asked if he would support a filibuster to block her, he replied, “Yes.”
McCain had earlier Wednesday laid out his opposition to Rice on CBS’s This Morning, saying that her remarks in the days after the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi showed that she was “not qualified” to lead America’s diplomatic efforts. At the Ideas Forum, McCain indicted her for “not being very bright, because it was obvious that this was not a ‘flash mob’ and there was additional information by the time she went on every news show … in America.”
Rice, following the lead of the intelligence community, had gone on a number of Sunday talk shows and attributed the attack to outrage stemming from an anti-Islam video produced by a Christian Egyptian expatriate based in California.
Graham said he couldn’t trust Rice to be America’s Secretary of State.
The GOP senators’ remarks were part of the day-long push for a Congressional investigation into the attack.
“Somebody has got to start paying a price around this place,” Graham said. “I don’t think she deserves to be promoted. There are a lot of qualified people in this country the president could pick, but I am dead-set on making sure we don’t promote anybody that was an essential player in the Benghazi debacle.”