Commentary: The GOP's Argument Against Susan Rice Doesn't Make Sense

So what is this "non-troversy" all about? Is it really about Benghazi?

Posted: 11/29/2012 10:15 AM EST
Commentary: The GOP's Argument Against Susan Rice Doesn't Make Sense

I've been trying for weeks to understand the logic and the reasoning behind the GOP's attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and it's now become increasingly clear that the attacks are both illogical and unreasonable.

Rice had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack, nothing to do with the security at the consulate, nothing to do with the U.S. military response and nothing to do with the investigation that followed. And Rice's information came directly from the intelligence community, which, curiously, has not become the subject of the same fierce scrutiny that Rice has endured.

So why are Republicans spending so much time attacking Susan Rice?

GOP leaders argue Rice misled the American people by denying that terrorists had a role in the attack. Actually, she did no such thing. I've looked at the transcripts of every Sunday show on which Rice appeared, and nowhere did she deny that terrorists might have played a role in the attack.

— On NBC's Meet the Press, Rice described her report as "the best information we have at present" and specifically said, "We look to [the FBI] investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired." 

— On CBS's Face the Nation, Rice said, "We'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions."

— On Fox News Sunday, Rice said, "Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then."

— And on CNN's State of the Union, host Candy Crowley never once asked Rice if the Benghazi tragedy was a terrorist attack, so the incident only came up in a broader discussion of Middle East "instability."

But of all the Sunday interviews Rice gave on Sept. 16, perhaps the most instructive was her conversation with CBS's Bob Schieffer, who specifically asked if al-Qaeda "had some part" in the Benghazi attack. "Well, we'll have to find that out," she replied. That hardly sounds like the language of a White House cover-up.

During that CBS interview, Rice never once denied that al-Qaeda might have played a role in the attack. In fact, she seemed to suggest that such an explanation was entirely plausible. "I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence," she said. "Whether they were al-Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al-Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine."

What could possibly be clearer than that?

This whole manufactured controversy arose because of one man, Sen. John McCain, who completely misinterpreted, or purposefully misstated, what Rice said on CBS. McCain appeared on Face the Nation that Sunday as the next guest to follow Rice and immediately and incorrectly misstated her position. 

Benghazi "was an act of terror, and for anyone to disagree with that fundamental fact I think is really ignoring the facts," McCain said. This may also be true, but nowhere — absolutely nowhere — in Rice's remarks did she deny the Benghazi attack was an act of terror. McCain imagined the whole thing in his head.

So what is this "non-troversy" all about? Is it really about Benghazi? Is it even about national security? Or is there something else going on here that Republicans just don't want to say out loud?


Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes political commentary for BET.com each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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