WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Ambassador Susan Rice Withdraws From Secretary Of State Consideration (VIDEO)

Ambassador Susan Rice withdraws from Secretary Of State consideration after Republicans question her qualifications and involvement in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack that left four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens dead.

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Rahiel Tesfamariam, columnist for TheWashingtonPost.com; Dr. Chris Metzler, political scientist from Georgetown University; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and Joseph Williams, contributor for TheGrio.com.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham must be pretty happy with themselves right now.  Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew from the race before it even started for Secretary of State.

Time for us to discuss it with our roundtable:  Rahiel Tesfamariam, columnist for TheWashingtonPost.com; Dr. Chris Metzler, political scientist from Georgetown University, steppin’ up his tie-and-pocket-square game – good job –

DR. CHRIS METZLER:  [Chuckles.]


MR. MARTIN:  — Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and Joseph Williams, contributor for TheGrio.com.

All right, folks.  Let’s get right to it.

Shameful – and I will say “shameful” – that Susan Rice had to withdraw her name from consideration for Secretary of State.  The vicious attacks against her were unbelievable.  Even to see folks try to invoke the bombings of our embassies in 1998, somehow as if she was over security.

She talked of course, with Brian Williams, of NBC News, with regards to why she stepped aside.  Here’s what she had to say.


AMB. SUSAN RICE:  I withdrew my name because I think it’s the right thing for the country, and I think it’s the right thing for the President.  And putting those things together, that makes it the right thing for me and my family.

I’ve all my life been a public servant.  I’m not a political person by – at my foundation.  I just want to, as I’ve had in academic and think-tanks and two terms – two administrations in this government, tried to – to do the right thing, and that’s what I’m going to continue doing.

MR. BRIAN WILLIAMS:  You pulled yourself out today.  Did you want the job?

AMB. RICE:  I would’ve been very honored to serve in that job – just as I’m delighted to do what I’m doing.  But, yes, sure.  How can you not want to, in my field, serve at the highest possible level?


MR. MARTIN:  [In] reality, this was her dream job.  She wanted it the first time around.  The President named Senator Hillary Clinton to the post.  And so, look, she’s being, I think, as gracious as possible; but she desperately wanted to be Secretary of State.

Your thoughts.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  Well, you can kind of hear it in that interview, where she caught herself when Brian Williams asked her if she really wanted the job.  She caught herself for a minute and then had to talk about how she’s honored to continue to serve in this administration and be a public servant.  But you could tell that there was something about the way she said that that indicates that this was a very, very bitter pill to swallow.  She swallowed it very, very graciously and reflecting – at least in that interview – about how poorly she was treated at the hands of two people that were supposed to be very esteemed senators.

MS. RAHIEL TESFAMARIAM:  Yeah.  And I think the question is, “Why was there any discussion of whether or not she could be trusted?”  I mean someone who has served this long, you know, has done so much.  There was rhetoric about whether or not she could be trusted.  If one’s[?] –

MR. MARTIN:  Senator John McCain even tried to question her intelligence.

MS. TESFAMARIAM:  — exactly.  And I think that was alarming to me, because we don’t turn around and then ask the Republicans why they should be trusted, because they seem to be doing this for the American public, but there’s always this undergirding of reasons that they don’t always tell us.

DR. METZLER:  Well, I still don’t know what the issue with Susan Rice is.  I –


DR. METZLER:  — and so, for me, the question is she’s clearly qualified – that’s not the issue – so, what’s the real issue?  She was – if only the senators were as gracious in their critique of her as she was in withdrawal, then we would’ve seen a much better Washington.

Look.  The fact of the matter is they don’t like her for whatever reason, whether –

MR. MARTIN:  Well, first of all, Chris, we heard these ridiculous things about, “Well, to be a diplomat, she sometime[s]” – “she’s too rough.”  “The New York Times” had this comment that she snapped at a Chinese diplomat in some meetings with.

I’m sorry.  I guess I don’t mind there being a tough member of the United Nations.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.  Right.  Right.

DR. METZLER:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  And not only that.  Okay, how dare any Republican have the audacity to call her “too tough” when President George W. Bush had John Bolton –

MS. SIMMONS:  Right, right.

MR. MARTIN:  — as UN ambassador.  Give me a break!

DR. METZLER:  Who he couldn’t –

MS. SIMMONS:  But you know what?

DR. METZLER:  — get confirmed, by the way.

MS. SIMMONS:  Yeah, how ’bout that?

DR. METZLER:  [Chuckles.]

MS. SIMMONS:  But you know what?  I think Ambassador Rice gave us a – she herself said she gave us the – “I’m not a political person.”  In other words, “The issue of being the ambassador and to interchange with all of these different ethnicities, heads of state on any given subject at any given time is not the issue that these folks who are criticizing me are looking at.  It’s a political game because they’re members of Congress.”

MR. MARTIN:  And they also were attacking her –


MR. MARTIN:  — because of Benghazi.  But, Deborah, here’s what I don’t understand.  And I’m serious.  I don’t understand, and please answer this.

MS. SIMMONS:  — and her spine is as stiff as Hillary’s spine, who has to play all these political games.

MR. MARTIN:  But answer this for me – and this is what bothers me.  She was attacked because of security when she was not over the State Department.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  She was attacked over intelligence.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right, right.

MR. MARTIN:  She’s not over the CIA.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  I find it interesting that McCain, Graham, Kelly Ayotte – all of them –

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — nobody wanted to question Secretary of State Clinton.


MR. MARTIN:  Nobody wanted to question David Petraeus.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  None of them wanted to question them, so they said, “We’re going to make you the target,” when those are the folks who should be asked the tough questions –

MS. SIMMONS:  Targeted –

MR. MARTIN:  — [about] what happened in Benghazi.

MS. SIMMONS:  — targeted and a scapegoat.  Ambassador Rice was made the target and the scapegoat.  Moreover, Hillary – what – two months ago came out and said, “Hello, America.  I’m responsible for what happened.”

MR. MARTIN:  But they chose not to –

MR. WILLIAMS:  And – and –

MR. MARTIN:  — question her –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. WILLIAMS:  — they didn’t want to hear it because they were making Sunday talk shows safe for democracy, basically, where she had gone on these chat shows and said something that was the best intelligence available.  And this –

MS. SIMMONS:  At that time.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — at that time.  And this –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — is the purview of Graham.  This is the purview of McCain.  This is what they do.  And to have her … be made a target for saying something that factually at that moment was correct, but later was found out to be incomplete – it’s really ridiculous.


MR. MARTIN:  Andrea Mitchell, of NBC News – she reported that senior women in the Obama Administration were not happy at all with what took place with her having to withdraw.  Here’s also –

MS. SIMMONS:  That he accepted it, or that –

MR. MARTIN:  — that she had to withdraw and that –

DR. METZLER:  That he accepted.

MR. MARTIN:  — he accepted it.

MS. SIMMONS:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  And here, of course, is my homegirl Donna Brazile –


MR. MARTIN:  — on CNN, giving her reaction.


MS. DONNA BRAZILE:  I was angry.  I got a call from Roland Martin, who said, “Have you heard the news?”

And I said, “Absolutely.  She should not step down.”

President Obama has not even made his intentions known; and, yet, for two months she’s been attacked viciously.  I’ve been in Washington for 30 years, so I understand the attack game; but she was attacked for her qualifications, and she was bludgeoned over Benghazi before we have any information that’s going to come from Ambassador Pickering.

I think it’s unfair.  I thought the attacks were gratuitous.  I thought it was mean-spirited.  This is the old boys’ network, so, as you can tell, I don’t like it.  Susan is more than qualified to hold the position.  I wish the President would’ve [gone] forward.  And women like myself – and, perhaps, some good men like David – would’ve found reasons to support her.

I understand that there is a partisan nature of this, and the Republicans are having a[n] issue with her, but this is a very well-qualified woman, and she should’ve had the job.

MR. WOLF BLITZER:  So, you’re saying he should’ve fought for her.

MS. BRAZILE:  Absolutely!


MR. MARTIN:  And I agree.  I think that he should’ve looked the Repu- — and I wrote this column three weeks ago.  I said the President should look the Republicans in the eye and say, “I dare you to vote her down!  This is my choice.”

And I get this whole deal in Washington when people say there’re other agenda items, but I’m sorry.  There can be more than one thing on the table – other than fiscal cliff, other than immigration – and he should[’ve] look[ed] them in the eye and said, “Yeah.  You want to be against her?  Then you[’re] against me.  She’s my choice.”

DR. METZLER:  Yeah.  And, look, the whole intelligence thing … she presented based on the intelligence that was available at the time.

MR. MARTIN:  Intelligence given to her

DR. METZLER:  To her!

MR. MARTIN:  — by the intelligence folks.

DR. METZLER:  Yeah, and here’s the thing.  Have we forgotten?  Where are the weapons of mass destruction?  I mean, you know, we go back to the same thing.  What they said at that point is, “We presented based on the intelligence that we had at the time.”

MR. MARTIN:  Joe, should the President –

DR. METZLER:  That’s the problem.

MR. MARTIN:  — have nominated her even with the opposition?

MR. WILLIAMS:  It’s a tough call.  I mean on the one hand –

MR. MARTIN:  Yes or no?

MR. WILLIAMS:  — well, yes.  In my opinion, yes, because of that very scenario. “Vote her down.”  The optics would look really horrible to have her in committee and have five white guys say no.

MR. MARTIN:  And also, I think that – also, Deborah, yes or no?  Should the President have nominated her anyway?


MR. MARTIN:  Chris, you already said –


MR. MARTIN:  — yes.

MS. TESFAMARIAM:  Yes, and I say so because there’re a lot of issues, gender and race, that aren’t being talked about; but I think it would’ve been a stand for more than just her as a politician.

MR. MARTIN:  Also, the United States Senate loves protecting their own.  They want to see their boy John Kerry to be Secretary of State.  That’s also part of the deal.

MS. SIMMONS:  Uh-oh!  Following Sister –

MR. MARTIN:  I’m sorry.

MS. SIMMONS:  — Hillary!

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, absolutely.


MR. MARTIN:  Again, that’s a game they play.  But [she] should’ve been nominated anyway.