An outraged President Barack Obama on Wednesday accused Republicans, including John McCain, of besmirching UN envoy Susan Rice, re-igniting a fierce row over the slaying of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Obama threw the weight of his replenished political capital behind Rice, the favourite to be his next secretary of state, as Republicans, lined her up as a top administration scalp over the attack in Benghazi on September 11. “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham, and others want to go after somebody they should go after me,” Obama declared, in his first press conference since being re-elected last week. To besmirch her reputation is outrageous,” Obama said.
“Best assessment” by the U.S.
Republicans have singled out Rice because she went on Sunday political talk shows in the wake of the Benghazi attack and said it was the “best assessment” of the U.S. government that the strike was not pre-planned. Rice said the assault, which killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, appeared to be a “spontaneous” reaction to a raid on the U.S. embassy in Cairo by extremists and an anti-Muslim video made on U.S. soil. The Obama administration subsequently admitted that the attack was carried out by militants linked to Al-Qaeda, and State Department and FBI probes are currently under way to find out what happened.
For Republican hawks, Rice’s attitude was proof the administration was oblivious to threats that existed in Benghazi, wanted to downplay evidence of a terror strike, and deserted Americans as they died on foreign soil. “I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State,” Republican Senator John McCain said on Wednesday. “She went out and told the American people something that was patently false and defied common sense,” he said. Obama however said that Rice had given her “best understanding” of the intelligence at the time.AFP