November 25th, 2012
11:18 AM ET
1 year 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. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    First of all, I've never heard President Obama announce he was selecting Rice or anyone else for that position, so this was all started by John McCain's own assumption. The only reason why McCain now says he would consider her is because Sen. John Kerry may get the job and McCain will no longer be on the Intel committee, which he should never have been, but will be sent to the Indian Affairs committee or go home. I wonder what kind of problems he will cause them. I hope Obama does select Sen. Kerry to shut this old man McCain down.

    November 25, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    I think McSongbird is trying to force Obama's hand to select Kerry so there is a seat open for Scott Brown in the Senate.

    Either that, or he hates to see strong smart women put in places of power.

    Both Suck. I've lost all respect for Songbird and wish he would just shrivel up and go away. If he's so smart, why did he crash so many planes and get himself captured??

    November 25, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. psh

    It's called "Perspective"...Under George W. Bush, 11 US Embassies were attacked resulting in 53 deaths and 90 injuries...."Get Some"

    November 25, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  4. ST

    Folks, leave McCain as McCain (as we say in Maths: leave pie as pie, don't integrate it). We know McCain more than he knows himself.

    November 25, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. batjones

    I have not heard anyone dispute that the catalyst for the other dozen or so attacks against our diplomatic posts that same day were due to the video. Is it plausible that there would be multiple causes for Muslim protesters to attack a US diplomatic post on the anniversary of September 11? Some of the protests were peaceful, others were confrontational, and a few were violent. It seems clear to me that September 11 will be an international day of protest against the United States. It seems that Ambassador Rice was quite correct in saying that the protest in Benghazi was hi-jacked by a violent mob. Who really cares whether there was a peaceful protest before the violence or after the violence? The goal of American intelligence and diplomacy should be to reduce the need for Muslims to protest against our interests.

    November 25, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Elphaba

    Every once in a while McCain opens his mouth to make some silly statements like these. His problem is he's still miffed at losing to "that black guy" four years ago. It's time for him to retire and let the younger people with fresher ideas take over. Thanks to McCain, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio, Arizona has become the laughing stock od states.

    November 25, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. SFRich

    In my opinion, Sen. McCain lost all his integrity when he backed Bush's reelection in 2004. Up to that point, you could count on him to be fair and candid about his positions—some of which didn't always conform to the "party line."

    Since then and especially after his loss to Obama in 2008, he's become a bitter hack. His positions on foreign policy are hawkish and out of date. His fiscal positions are based in the past and do not reflect the current state of our affairs. He still believes we should be the enforcer of freedom and justice in the world. That's a laudable goal, but we can no longer afford to do that. Many in the world no longer trust us as the result of Bush's hawish policies. Also, global politics post-9/11 are more complex.

    McCain's posturing on Susan Rice is unacceptable. She is not in a position to create her own version of what happened in Libya, so why is she being held accountable for what was being reported at the time. McCain kept insisting that we need to know more about who did what and when, yet he failed to attend the briefing last week to hear it from people from all the agencies involved. Instead, he was out giving a press conference about not having all the information. So it's not about truth at all, but rather making noise.

    What's REALLY going on with this is politics. These guys can't accept the results of the election, that the majority of Americans prefer Obama's policies over the GOP's. They are convinced that Obama ordered the suppression of the "truth" about what happened in Libya on 9/11 in order to gain politically. Even though there's been no evidence of that whatsoever, making a lot of noise about it is great political theater for McCain and Graham, neither of which have much integrity. They're just senior senators trying to force their agenda upon a public that care's little for their party's position.

    November 25, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. ajw

    The kicker for me in this article is when King said that Rice should have done her own investigation. So Rice has better investigative capabilities than the CIA. Wow!!!

    November 25, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. Facts don't Lie

    I honestly fell that had Secretary Clinton had made this statement if handed to her, you right winger would not be attacking her as you have been Ms. Rice. I see no credibility at all in the right wing attacks on her other than sour grapes after the election and trying to shore up the bitter base. Even the families of the victims have asked NOT to use them as political pawns.

    November 25, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Hdtexan

    Rice owes this disgusting individual NOTHING! McCain should have retired when he still had a shred of dignity. Too late for that now.

    November 25, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  11. M led

    I think McCain hates African Americans and women. .. And never got over the 2008 election. He's just a bitter old man.

    November 25, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Don't Like John McCain

    I'd love the opportunity to discuss a few issues with you, McSenator! You are grasping at straws now . . . you are on your way out of your cushy job! You are the biggest instigator in D.C. and I really don't like that you accomplish NOTHING at your job, other than causing dissension. YOU HAVE TO GO AND I CAN'T WAIT TO CAST MY VOTE AGAINST YOU! It's too late, just shut up . . . nobody is listening to your trash talk anymore!

    November 25, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. REDFIREBALL

    Let's see if Obama follows through with exposing Susan Rice to intense Congressional scrutiny (unless this has already occured? ) - the songs that echo off Congressional Halls - who heard them?

    November 25, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  14. REDFIREBALL

    John Kerry has about as much chance as Deval Patrick

    November 25, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. kathy/Minnesota

    John mcCain is a fool, to pick someone as dumb as Sarah Palin to be one step from the comander and chief, and yet call Susan Rice basically dumb....he has no credibility!!!!! He is still mad he lost to the President and he is really mad he had to "fake" support mittens, and he also lost to the President. The old man is grumpy and he needs to go retire to one of his many homes, that he claimed he forgot how many he has.

    November 25, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. Amskeptic

    It is **exhausting** to read all of these ignorant assertions that Rice was "lying". She NEVER said what exactly happened. She said, "it looks like a spontaneous response, but we do not definitively know what happened." And for all of us who were not there, we have even less information. To call her a "liar" is only to show the tattoo on your forehead that you are an intolerant agenda-driven Obama hater. Go Away! It is time the adults took on the task of running this country.

    November 25, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    McCain should have "changed his mind in 2008 when he picked Sarah Palin", too late now. So who really cares if he changes his mind on Susan Rice, he has no power, he's on his way out.

    November 25, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. jpmichigan

    Susan Rice is a pawn in the game of politics, that was used by the Democratic party to help Obamas foreign agenda. So that she played the game, they want to reward that movement by gifting her with the Sect. of State role.

    November 25, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  19. SOLESUVIVOR

    OK,John time for your medication and bed.

    November 25, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. keeth

    McCain attacks Susan Rice for her speech before the UN based on flawed intelligence, but he defended Condi Rice's comments about Saddam's smoking gun/mushroom cloud based on flawed intelligence. Hypocrisy at its finest!

    November 25, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  21. KC Yankee

    Senator John McCain is a bit like an old dog. He's about half out of his mind about half the time, but he can still bite somebody if they get close to him. He'll fade away soon, and it couldn't be too soon for me.

    November 25, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. migeli

    We don't need no stinkin Norquist either.

    November 25, 2012 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  23. azwi

    John McCain has to accept the fact that he's not qualified himself. McCain is certainly no military or foreign affairs expert. All McCain is, is a hatemonger and warmonger. McCain can not accept the fact that the American people soundly rejected his warmonger positions and old fashion out of touch policies. McCain is a perfect example of why we should have term limits.

    November 25, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. shelbyanne

    Mc Cain attacks our next secretary of state with wild conspiracy theories.

    November 25, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  25. Tony

    Jrobinson, I found the following in a Bloomberg report on November 15:

    "U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice’s account of a deadly attack on the American consulate in Libya reflected the CIA’s best information at the time, two Democrats on the House intelligence committee said.

    Acting CIA Director Michael Morell told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing yesterday that Rice’s televised account, five days after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, was based on an early agency assessment that the episode stemmed from a spontaneous demonstration."

    In other words, what Rice said reflected what the CIA knew at the time.

    November 25, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
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