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Right Turn
Posted at 09:45 AM ET, 11/27/2012

Rice might get confirmed, but not a pass

Eli Lake reports, “On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain says he’ll sit down face to face in a secure room at the Capital with Susan Rice, the woman he had previously vowed to oppose if she’s nominated as the next secretary of state. In an interview, McCain told The Daily Beast that Rice herself requested the meeting after McCain made several statements suggesting she misled the American people about the Benghazi attacks when she went on several Sunday talk shows on September 16, five days after the assault.” The request is an indication the president knows he has a problem with a potential confirmation hearing that cannot be swept away by bluster at a news conference.

McCain has a unique opportunity here that goes well beyond Rice’s possible promotion. He has the stature and the leverage to set some principled guidelines for confirmation hearings and to finally extract information from the administration on one of its biggest foreign policy blunders.

Let’s start with the premise that elections have consequences and that with regard to executive appointments (as opposed to lifetime judicial appointments) the president should generally get his choice of advisers, unless there is an issue of qualifications or ethics. In other words, President Obama is entitled to have someone who — by all accounts — will, by and large, be a political loyalist and not make policy on her own so long as, in this case, Rice didn’t intentionally lie to the American people.

McCain should therefore question her closely to determine what she knew, what information was in the talking points, what additional information was available to her, why she was selected as the administration’s mouthpiece and when the intelligence account of what occurred in Benghazi apparently changed. He also — and this is critical — should make clear that a full and complete account from the White House of events leading up to the attack and murder of our ambassador on that night (including the president’s role) and the administration's reaction afterward must be part of the public hearings should she be nominated. (The same would be true of anyone involved in the Benghazi debacle.) If she did not lie and the White House is forthcoming (which it has not been), then Rice should get her up or down vote (and presumably be confirmed).

McCain and other Republicans would err if they were to demand too much (a filibuster absent proof of wrongdoing) or too little (failing to get a full and detailed explanation of the Benghazi matter).

Well, why should Rice be held up while the administration is piecing together yet another rendition of its Libya story? One, this the president has only himself to blame. He has steadfastly refused to provide timely and complete answers to relevant questions and has hidden behind a smokescreen of internal “investigations” (which don’t include him). If the president had dealt forthrightly with Congress and the American people there would be no reason to delay Rice’s or any other person’s potential confirmation hearing.

Rice is not the most important player in the Benghazi fiasco, but she is a means by which the voters can finally learn what occurred. By nominating her, the president opened the door to a full inquiry. Now McCain and his colleagues should make the most of it. Tempting as it might be to reject her, they should also keep in mind that perhaps the worst of all choices (and someone impossible to filibuster), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), waits in the wings.

By  |  09:45 AM ET, 11/27/2012

 
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