November 25th, 2012
11:18 AM ET
2 years ago

McCain says he's open to changing his mind on Susan Rice

(CNN) - Sen. John McCain, who has led the effort to discredit Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday he was willing to listen to Rice's testimony if she's nominated to become the next secretary of state.

McCain has criticized Rice for her statements immediately following the September attacks at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which Rice initially described as stemming from protests against an anti-Islam video. Later her remarks came under scrutiny as further information suggested the attack was a premeditated assault.

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McCain, R-Arizona, has fronted the criticism of Rice, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. They, along with many other Republicans, have said they would block Rice's nomination if President Barack Obama chooses her to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Elevating Rice to a cabinet position within the administration would require a Senate confirmation.

On Sunday, McCain was asked on Fox News if there was anything Rice could do to change his resolve to block her potential nomination.

"Sure," McCain said. "I'd give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. I'd be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her."

On Wednesday, Rice explained she was relying "solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community" when she made her initial remarks on the attack in Benghazi.

"I made clear that the information was preliminary," Rice told reporters outside the United Nations. Obama has also defended Rice and criticized McCain's attacks in a news conference two weeks ago, calling Republican criticism of Rice "outrageous."

Graham, appearing on ABC on Sunday, said he didn't believe Rice was using the best intelligence possible when she made her initial appearances, and that her explanation of the attack had political motives.

"I don't believe the video is the reason for this. I don't believe it was ever the reason for this. That was a political story, not an intel story, and we're going to hold people accountable for a major national security breakdown three weeks before the election. That is our job," Graham said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, said he would also require further explanation from Rice before voting to confirm her as secretary of state.

"I don't feel that I know exactly what she was told before she went on TV that Sunday morning," Lieberman said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And I think we ought to find out before we decide on whether she's a good or bad public servant."

Last week, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence said the unclassified talking points that Rice used in her initial appearances following the Benghazi attack had been altered by the intelligence community before they were distributed to government officials.

Rep. Peter King - chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and another Republican who has sharply criticized Rice - said the U.N. ambassador should have gathered her own research before appearing on Sunday morning shows to discuss the Benghazi attack.

"If she is sent out to speak to the American people on what happened in Benghazi, she is obligated to do more than look at three sentences, or five sentences, of unclassified talking points. That was basically a cover story," King said on NBC. He said Rice had "failed in her responsibility" to provide the public with an accurate assessment of the consulate assault, which left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

"She had access to all of the sensitive top secret classified information. And she knew that the story she was giving out was not entirely true," King said.

McCain said Sunday the chronicle of the talking points from the intelligence community was "assuming the proportions of any other major scandal in this town."

"There are many layers to the onion, there's all kinds of questions that have been raised," McCain said.

CNN's Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: John McCain • Susan Rice
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. v

    can the senate confirm the denial of these senators?

    November 25, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  2. Tony

    Susan Rice was reading from talking points prepared by the CIA. Like any other government official whose job is not intelligence, she relied on information given to her by the intelligence community. What is wrong with that, McCain?

    November 25, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. JG51

    "I don't feel that I know exactly what she was told before she went on TV that Sunday morning," Lieberman said on CNN's "State of the Union." "And I think we ought to find out before we decide on whether she's a good or bad public servant."

    This statement is exactly what Senators McCain, Graham and all the others who demanded Ms. Rice head be put on a platter should have said. I respect President Obama for standing by her and publicly denouncing these two Senators for vilifying this woman without all the facts.

    November 25, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  4. Peace

    Lindsey Graham said he still believes it was not the video which caused the attack. Can he prove to people that it was something else and not a video. And if it was not a video, why didn't the attack happen before the video was out OR few weeks after the video was seen.

    November 25, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  5. Hotdog

    This man is sick and is also a disgrace as a public servant. The mere fact that he open to changing his mind shows that his motives were for political gain and nothing more. Susan Rice is a reminder to him that he lost being elected to the office of POTUS by an African American.

    November 25, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  6. Gurgyl

    John, you are just living in 3rd century, you need to change your rusty idealogy and come out like a modern era boy. You are not a bad guy like others in GOP cult. Just come from sun-room. We have lot of sun-shine. God bless.

    November 25, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. vic , nashville ,tn

    Good news, we have work together to stop Benghazi type attack in future
    Now we have focus on fiscal clip 100%, we have to stop middle class tax increase

    November 25, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. jrobinson

    Susan Rice is a Soros Agenda21 tool. That's reason enough to keep this idiot away from any post in this govt. She should be bagging groceries for a living.

    @Tony: Rice was not reading talking points from the CIA, that's the POINT. She changed the talking points AFTER she received them from the CIA. That's what's wrong with that.

    November 25, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Honestly?

    Living in AZ, I reserve the right to vote against Senator McCain when he is up for re-election. That is if he doesn't retire first. I'm sick and tired of this junk. If I could vote against Lindsey Graham and the rest of the larger than life hypocrites, I would.

    November 25, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  10. Over the hill

    McCain and Graham both opened their fat mouths before getting all the information. Instead of attending intelligence meetings to get caught up, they chose to find a camera and make outlandish comments. Before they finally went behind closed doors and heard evidence.. they were all critical.. after the meeting they seem to be toned down. Just how do you get past making a stupid comment and still save face? Act like you never said it.

    November 25, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  11. Thomas

    The question should be dose McCain have a mind left to change !

    Didn't Romney donate a car elevator to the McCain retirement home ?

    I'm sorry and don't want to sound mean , but John lost his credibility with me when he let GW Bush push him around during the 2000 primaries . He let Bush by way of Karl Rove question his military record .
    If during that interview John had slapped the young Bush around the room verbally , he would of had my vote.
    He punked out !

    November 25, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  12. ST

    Whats wrong with these senators? Can they tell us what is in the minds of every individual?? Why can't they reason out? The attackers took the advantage of the video which struck the nerves of those concerned at that time it was out.

    November 25, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. Facts don't Lie

    Congress should be putting more effort into finding who killed our people and less time with a partisan witch hunt to score political points.

    November 25, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. njbchicago

    Look, Benghazi stinks, period. During the debate, Candy Crowley saved the President by saying he said it was terrorism in the Rose Garden. Ok, so what changed a few days later when he, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, etc..... came out and refused to say it was terrorism and blamed it on a video. Video, video, video. Then, when people (like me) were outraged and said 'what? How come I knew it wasn't a video before they did?" they said, oh, wait, it was terrorism. This was politics, pure and simple, before the election. Just like Obama not knowing about the Petraus affair until election night. Just like Obama evolving on gay rights during the election year (not earlier). Just like Obama granting amnesty to the children of illegals that were born here (and I agree with that) during the election year (not earlier). Just like Obama giving college students more time to pay back their student loans during the election year (not earlier). Need I go on? They are all political shmucks that have no sense of right vs wrong. And the masses follow them. Whatever. I won't.

    November 25, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. njbchicago

    Peace: good questions that you will never have the answers to because this Administration won't let the truth come out.

    November 25, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  16. labman57

    Mad Dog McCain shoots from the hip first ... and gets around to asking questions later ... maybe. And when proven wrong, he simply acknowledges that he might be willing to consider the possibility that he was too quick to pass judgement.

    Of course, the collateral damage of Rice's reputation is left in the wake of his impetuousness.

    November 25, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. TM

    So, after missing a SCHEDULED intelligence briefing to hold a news conference to complain about how he needs answers about what happened in Lybia, and being reminded how he said NOT ONE WORD after Colin Powell (who actually WAS Secretary of State) went to the U.N. and repeated a litany of actual lies cooked up by Bush and Cheney about Iraq, Senator McCain is now "open to listening" to Ambassador Rice? Perhaps we all could have avoided weeks of pointless accusations by a party of sore losers if Senator McCain had been "open to listening" to begin with.

    November 25, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. Dio

    It is now widely acknowledge BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT and by CIA that it was NOT a video. It never WAS a video. It was an organized attack by well armed individuals (small-arms and RPGs) on the annivesary of September 11. (Quelle surprise...). Rice was simply lying according to instructions directly from Obama, who has also (now) said "I never said it was a video!" She is BOTH dishonest AND incompetent. There would be something wrong with someone who DIDN'T oppose her.

    November 25, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  19. ghost

    I use to have a little respect for Mccaain. Now I just wish everyday that he would just go away. Get out of public life like Mitty and go into hibernation, like the bear and earth worm. Please stop making hime seem relevant. He is not. AWAY YOU GO.........

    November 25, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Tony

    Even if Rice had access to classified information, she could not release classified information. They are classified for some reason. As the House Homeland Security Committee chairman should know, releasing classified information may harm national security. Intelligence people do not release all the information that they know. They can't do their jobs– obtaining and keeping secrets– if they show everything in their hands.

    November 25, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. Tony in Maine

    The whole brouhaha has nothing to do with Susan Rice, Benghazi, or a movie made by a moron. It is about the 2008 election that put Barack Obama into the Republican's White House. The Democrats are allowed to have a majority in one or even both houses of Congress occasionally, but God has ordained that the White House is the fiefdom of the Republicans.

    November 25, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Cynthia L.

    I really don't give a fly's behind what John McCain says at this point. The man NEVER SHOWED UP TO THE MEETING of top-officals who testified on the matter given to the committee he is a member of. Instead, he was giving the press interviews about his complaints that he didn't know details.
    Susan Rice stated that the information was "preliminary" during her interviews to news sources. It's on tape. End of story.

    November 25, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Squigman

    Careful there. Any statement of this kind can, and will be used against you come next election. Also, remember that you and your party are responsible for this intolerance. Just remember the following names: Limbaugh, Hammity, Palin, And all other teatards. Cross the line with this bunch and you could find yourself in deep do do.

    November 25, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. James L.

    The CIA has released papers that say Rice's statements were accurate. Protests erupted, sparked by that video, all over the mideast, among them, a protest in Tripoli happened two hours prior to the attack on the minor outpost consulate in Benghazi. But Benghazi was an lone exception, the attack was a miraculous coincidence. Graham, like McCain and most Republicans, are a bag of nut jobs. They all were so wrong about so much. Who, in there right mind, listens to these political fools and why are they given so much media attention?

    November 25, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Rick McDaniel

    She is NOT likely to be convincing, in making her case. I see no credibility, at all, in her claims she didn't know the truth.

    November 25, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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