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Susan Rice: why GOP opposition to her is no longer white-hot (+video)

Key GOP voices including Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have tempered their rhetoric about Ambassador Susan Rice, who could be nominated as a possible secretary of State.

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Obama has not nominated Rice, nor has he said whom he plans to name to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said she plans to step down once her successor is in place. But speculation has centered on Rice and Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts. Recently, some White House officials have hinted that the president might prefer Rice at State and could name Senator Kerry as Defense secretary if, as anticipated, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta steps down next year.

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The shift in the GOP stance on Rice appears to reflect a number of developments, including the Democratic charges of racism and sexism – which come as the Republicans assess their weak showing with women and minorities in general in the November elections. The changed tone also follows recent testimony from former CIA director David Petraeus, who told senators that Rice’s talking points – and the failure to call Benghazi a terrorist attack – reflected a desire among intelligence officials not to tip off terrorist groups in eastern Libya that the United States was aware of their involvement. 

Perhaps more important are the opinions of respected foreign-policy analysts, a number of whom have said that Rice has served ably at the UN and should not be judged on an event that she did not set policy for.

Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, wrote in The Washington Post Nov. 18 that Republicans concerned about Benghazi should focus not on Rice’s television performance but on the administration’s preparedness for the safety of diplomats in dangerous places. He also said that, were Obama to nominate either Rice or Kerry, “the Senate should vote to confirm.”

As for King saying that senior administration officials “have an obligation not to just be a puppet” for the president: A variety of media outlets, including National Review and USA Today, have made a comparison with the Bush administration sending Colin Powell, then secretary of State, to the UN to justify a US war on Iraq.

Before the world’s television cameras, Mr. Powell presented “evidence” of Saddam Hussein’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The evidence, as it turned out, was false.

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