Arizona Sen. John McCain has softened his opposition to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as a possible successor to outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The former prisoner of war and 2008 Republican presidential nominee had questioned both Rice's fitness to serve and the credibility of her explanation of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, during which four Americans were killed. He also pledged to block her nomination, but now has an open mind.
"I think she deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself and her position," McCain said on Fox News Sunday.
For several days, McCain, along with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, took public issue with Rice's account of the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi as a spontaneous protest sparked by an anti-Muslim video that later turned out to be an act planned by terrorists during which four Americans were killed. Rice, who appeared on several Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16 as a surrogate for Clinton, relied "solely and squarely" on talking points provided to her by the intelligence community.
“I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers," Rice told reporters at the United Nations last Wednesday.
The language used by the two senators and other Republican lawmakers to disparage her by suggesting she is unqualified led several Democrats, including several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to accuse them of being racist and sexist. Rep. James Clyburn, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, said they were speaking in racial code and questioned McCain's own judgment, citing his nomination of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008.
Now, McCain says, Rice is "not the problem. The problem is the president of the United States" who, he believes, misled the public about what occurred.
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(Photos from left: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mark Wilson/Getty Images)