Fox News guy, not joking, calls Susan Rice a “steady hand.” (Evan Vucci/AP)

Anyone who’s watched Fox News over the past, oh, 10 weeks or so may have concluded that there’s a directive from on high regarding how to talk about U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice. Judging from the univocal coverage, that imaginary directive might well read:

* Hammer Rice on every possible occasion for her famous Sept. 16 appearances on Sunday talk shows, where she attempted to explain the origins of the Benghazi attacks and mentioned several times an anti-Muslim video.

* Credit the attacks of Republicans who insist her talking points were misleading to the American public.

* Wonder aloud how she couldn’t have delivered a more clear-eyed assessment, and why she didn’t accentuate intelligence that the attack was linked to extremists with possible links to al-Qaeda.

* Play up the continuing concerns of senators who met earlier this week with Rice, as she attempts to clear the air ahead of a possible nomination to serve as secretary of state.

Alas, today’s “Fox News Sunday” disproved the existence of such a directive, as host Chris Wallace delivered what could be the most laudatory assessment by a big-time Foxer all season long. It came in a discussion with former Democratic senator Evan Bayh:

WALLACE: Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins, still expressing doubts after meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and we’re back now with the panel, well I think it is fair to say, it sure seems like Susan Rice was on a pre-nomination charm tour, to try to disarm some of her Republican Senate critics and smooth relations before the president names her secretary of state. Senator Bayh, why do you think it went so badly? She certainly didn’t disarm the critics and, at this point, do you think it would be a mistake for the president to go ahead and name her secretary of state?

BAYH: Why it went badly, Chris, I don’t know, I wasn’t in the room. Whether my friends, Senator McCain and [Sen. Lindsey] Graham were willing to be charmed, that is a very open question.

WALLACE: Yeah, but Susan Rice is a pretty steady hand and I’m not saying that McCain and Graham aren’t, but she is somebody who plays it pretty much down the middle.

Holy cognitive dissonance!