Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mannes in Politico on GOP attacks on Susan Rice

The other day the Politico Arena asked if GOP attacks on UN Ambassador Susan Rice over Benghazi were misdirected.  Following is my answer:

In his novel Can You Forgive Her, Anthony Trollope (a keen observer of the 19th century English Parliament) observed:

But the outside Briton who takes a delight in politics,—and this description should include ninety-nine educated Englishmen out of every hundred,—should not be desirous of peeping behind the scenes. No beholder at any theatre should do so.
Whether or the administration made a major mistake in its handling the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi is an open question.  To this observer, it appears that on a tough play they bobbled the ball.  An investigation is in order, but hopefully to improve processes and crisis management.

But the question of Ambassador Rice's role in this is fairly clear.  There was not one, the UN Ambassador has little to do with Embassy security or counter-terror response.  Her mistake was being the administration spokesperson at the wrong time.

So what are Senators McCain and Graham, a pair of experienced foreign policy hands, up to in their criticism?

They may simply be scoring political points, but even this is not as simple as it seems.  Now that the President appears to have a strong majority in the Senate, McCain needs to let the President know that he stills needs to consult the Senate on foreign policy issues - a shot across the bow, as it were.

Another possibility is that Senators McCain and Graham are uncomfortable with Amb. Rice as Secretary of State and the Benghazi issue is a convenient hook to this issue.  There can be little doubt that Amb. Rice is an extraordinarily capable person.  But most of her experience is in African affairs and at the UN.  While these are important arenas, they are not central to American foreign policy.  Further, the Senators were reportedly unhappy with Amb. Rice's performance as UN Ambassador.  These are legitimate arguments, but they make for poor theater. 

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