A forceful defense of Susan Rice

November 14, 2012

Bristling with evident indignation, President Obama made a forceful defense of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who has been criticized for her comments on the cause of the attack on American facilities in Libya in September, but who is also seen as a leading candidate to be the next secretary of state.

Rice has "done exemplary work" with "skill, professionalism and toughness and grace," Obama said. He then made a pointedly and almost personal challenge to senior lawmakers, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who have called for Watergate-style hearings on the matter and questioned Rice's actions.

"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and other want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama said. "For them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi…to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."

On a defiant note, Obama said that he would not hesitate to nominate Rice to the Cabinet post even in the face of Republican opposition, but that it is "not a determination that I've made yet."

Obama also denied that the military or CIA held back any efforts in attempts to rescue the Americans under attack. "My orders to my national security team were to do whatever we need to do to make sure they are safe," Obama said.

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Peter Wallsten | November 14, 2012