In the height of irony or, perhaps more accurate, hubris, Senator John McCain, the man who rushed the insufficiently vetted and profoundly unqualified Sarah Palin to the status of VP candidate (aka, “a heartbeat away from the presidency”), took to the podium today to denigrate and denounce the highly respected U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice for being “not qualified.” Referencing the Benghazi tragedy and Rice’s initial response to it based on the intel available to her at that point, McCain made his judgment clear; this from Politico:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Wednesday that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice is “not qualified” to become secretary of state and he called her claim that the deadly attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi was a spontaneous demonstration “not very bright.”
“She’s not qualified,” McCain said on CBS’s “This Morning.” “Anyone who goes on national television and in defiance of the facts, five days later — We’re all responsible for what we say and what we do. I’m responsible to my voters. She’s responsible to the Senate of the United States. We have our responsibility for advice and consent.
For the man who inflicted the “not very bright” Ms. Palin upon the electorate, there appears to be an extreme disconnect at play here. One doesn’t necessarily want to drag the 2008 campaign into the discussion, certainly not when much of it was an embarrassing display of political ineptitude and arrogance embodied by a vice-presidential candidate who was in so far over her head, it’s possible she’s still not breathing air, but McCain’s personal slams on Rice reeks of tunnel vision. Or, as one pundit suggested, old wounds with Obama over that 2008 campaign.
Senator Lindsey Graham joined in to echo McCain’s sentiments, taking his own shots at Rice while pledging with McCain to block her as a potential Secretary of State. According to ABC News:
Obama has not yet nominated Rice, but she is considered a potential frontrunner for the post. McCain, R-Ariz., and Graham, R-S.C., today said they would seek to block a potential nomination because, as Graham put it, she is “up to her eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.”
The pledge to stand in Rice’s way if he eventually nominates her drew an uncharacteristically sharp rebuke from President Obama at a rare Washington, D.C. press conference.
Obama did not take kindly to what he perceived as a personal slam to his trusted ambassador:
“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” said Obama. “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.”
To which Graham and McCain responded:
“Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack,” he said.
“If the president thinks that we are picking on people, he really does not have any idea of how serious this issue is,” said McCain on the Senate floor.
“This president and this administration has either been guilty of colossal incompetence or engaged in a cover-up, neither of which are acceptable to the American people,” McCain said.
This testy exchange occurred just eight days past the momentous election that spoke to the country’s disgust with partisan politics and obstructionism; it’s disappointing that during a time when a highly sensitive and potentially inflammatory hearing is in session, high level members of the GOP would come out with the same obstinate, ignorant rhetoric that continues to serve the divisiveness the American public rejected.
As for Democrats, they couldn’t help but remember a similar scenario with Condoleeza Rice running up to the war in Iraq, detailed in a piece in the Huffington Post:
During a 2002 appearance on CNN, Condoleezza Rice had said that while “there will always be some uncertainty” about the intelligence, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
When she was later nominated for secretary of state, by which point it had become clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, both McCain and Graham publicly defended her appointment despite the misstatements.
The parallels – and hypocrisy – found in this comparison are not lost on Democrats and their supporters. McCain and Graham, however, conveniently dismiss it as apples and oranges.
There are many elements to this story, information and facts that are still being investigated and will likely be part of the ongoing exchange of information at the current hearing on Benghazi. We’ll all be reading and writing about it as the story develops. But the hope for a “new day” of cooperation and bipartisanship appears to have been an ephemeral notion. And as John McCain steps out of the pack to make an argument against a woman in politics for being “not qualified’ and “not very bright,” it’s impossible not to make another comparison: this is the man who gave us Sarah Palin. Enough said.