This time, it’s personal for President Barack Obama and House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn.
The nation’s top two black elected officials made it clear Wednesday that it’s on like free airline luggage if Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina want to aggressively go after embattled United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice over the tragic death of U.S. diplomat Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.
McCain has said Rice, who’s rumored to be under consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, is “not qualified” for the job because she initially blamed the fatal attack in the diplomatic facility in Benghazi was a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic video, not a terrorist attack.
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said Wednesday during his first post-election news conference. “And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
McCain and Graham have introduced a resolution calling for a select committee investigation into the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi incident. McCain told “Fox & Friends” Wednesday that “I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State.” McCain’s comments apparently made Obama bristle.
“When they go after the U.N. Ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me,” the president said.
“And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity of the State Department, then I will nominate her,” Obama added. “That’s not a determination that I’ve made yet.”
Clyburn, speaking Wednesday night on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” took it a step further, saying that McCain and Graham are messing with a family friend.
“I have a real, real problem with my senior senators trying to make her a scapegoat in this,” Clyburn said. “Susan Rice’s roots are in Florence, South Carolina… Her father, Emmett, who was born there in Florence, didn’t leave there until he was 16 years old… (he and) I have been a close friend of his over the years. I’m a close friend of Susan Rice.”
“I think it’s absolutely a shame for this young lady, whose roots are deep in South Carolina soil, to get sullied like this by my senior senator, who I consider a good friend,” Clyburn continued.
When “Hardball” host Chris Matthews asked why McCain and Graham are treating Rice “like she’s somebody to punch,” Clyburn responded: “That’s exactly right. This is a young African-American woman, I’m going to say.”
“And this is the kind of stuff that happened to Colin Powell,” Clyburn said, referring to incorrect intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that the former Secretary of State received and later conveyed to the United Nations as justification wage war against Saddam Hussein’s regime. “He went to the United Nations with information that we found out later was flawed. It was not his fault then…and it’s not Susan Rice’s fault.”