The downright stupid attacks by Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on UN Ambassador Susan Rice are coming because many think the President will nominate her for Secretary of State when Hillary Clinton retires early next year. The attacks are on her character, intelligence and competence are in relation to her TV appearances about the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.
Now, here’s what we know. A few days after the attack, Ambassador Rice went on several other Sunday morning news shows and repeated the unclassified talking points given to her by the intelligence community. It turns out, the information she was given was wrong, which she has admitted. But even after she met with her Senate accusers this week, each said, in lockstep fashion, that they’re even more, quote, “troubled” at what they heard from her.
Retired Army Major General John Hawkins, Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women; and Melanie Campbell, president of the National Council on Black Civic Participation joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the GOP’s attacks on Ambassador Susan Rice and their attempts to stop President Obama in his second term.
MR. MARTIN: Hello, and welcome to “Washington Watch.”
President Barack Obama won the election vowing to raise taxes on the richest 2 percent, but somehow the Republicans didn’t get the message. The fighting and posturing goes on in Washington as the country faces the prospect of huge, automatic spending cuts and big tax hikes for everyone at the beginning of 2013 – the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
And we’ll discuss all of that later; but, first, the downright stupid attacks by Republican senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on UN Ambassador Susan Rice. These attacks are coming because many think the President will nominate her for Secretary of State when Hillary Clinton retires early next year. The attacks are on her character, intelligence and competence in relation to her TV appearances about the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.
Now, here’s what we know. A few days after the attack, Ambassador Rice went on several other Sunday morning news shows and repeated the unclassified talking points given to her by the intelligence community. [It] turns out, the information she was given was wrong, which she has admitted. But even after she met with her Senate accusers this week, each said, in lockstep fashion, that they’re even more, quote, “troubled” at what they heard from her.
So, what’s going on here? And why does it seem that all the nastiest attacks from the GOP are reserved for Administration officials like former ‘Green Jobs Czar’ Van Jones, former White House Secretary – Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, Attorney General Eric Holder, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and now Rice? Anyone see a pattern here?
To help us understand just what’s going on [are] retired Army Major General John Hawkins, just returned from the Middle East, who served as a top public affairs officer in Afghanistan and [who] now teaches terrorism and counterterrorism at Trinity Washington University; Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women; and Melanie Campbell, president of the National Council on Black Civic Participation, who are both organizing support for Ambassador Rice among prominent, female, African-American organizations.
Folks, welcome to the show.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN HAWKINS: Thank you.
DR. AVIS JONES-DEWEEVER: Thank you.
MS. MELANIE CAMPBELL: Thank you.
MR. MARTIN: Now, let’s first start off with what – some of the comments. We have a mash-up here of Graham, as well as McCain, with their outrageous comments regarding Ambassador Rice.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: … our UN Ambassador conveyed was clearly false. There was overwhelming evidence that it was completely false, and she should have known what the sit- — situation and circumstances were and not tell the world on all Sunday-morning talk shows.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I don’t trust her. And the reason I don’t trust her is because I think she knew better, and if she didn’t know better, she shouldn’t be the voice of America.
I am dead-set on making sure we don’t promote anybody that was an essential player in the Benghazi debacle.
SEN. MCCAIN: Let’s see what – what happens here, but we will do whatever’s necessary to block the nomination that’s within our power as far as Susan Rice is concerned.
[END OF VIDEO.]
MR. MARTIN: President Barack Obama met with his cabinet this week, and here’s what he had to say about his UN ambassador.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Susan Rice is extraordinary. Couldn’t be prouder of the job that she’s done at USUN.
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: Now, here’s what I don’t understand. Ambassador Rice sits down with the intelligence community. They say, “This is what we know. Here’s the information. Here’s what you read.”
She reads it.
MAJ. GEN. HAWKINS: She only knows what she is told by the CIA. If there is a question about what she said, then the question should be laid on the feet of the people that gave her the information to speak about.
MS. CAMPBELL: Well, the bottom line, as far as we’re concerned, with the Black Women’s Roundtable and over a hundred women’s organizations, it really has to do with utilizing her as a pawn to continue to be obstructionist to the President of the United States and his agenda. And so they think that Susan Rice – Ambassador Rice is a[n] easy way to do that. It has nothing to do with whether she was right or wrong, or anything else.
The problem is we’ve seen this pattern before, even before this administration. When it comes to what happened – the attempt with Alexis Herman when she went through her process during the Clinton Administration –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. CAMPBELL: — to become Secretary of State [sic]. We saw it with Lani Guinier, and so as women – as black women, and we are standing in solidarity with women all across this country to say, “Not on our watch! We are not going to allow you to” – “to assassinate her character.”
DR. JONES-DEWEEVER: It’s all about trying to eliminate this woman’s opportunity to become the next Secretary of State. They know their position on Benghazi is completely illogical; it doesn’t make any sense. You’re saying that – you’re putting the woman in the position where you’re saying that either she needed to be able to project the outcomes of an investigation that was only under way for five days – for five days at that point. And, in fact, many of the investigators weren’t even on the ground yet, so she was dealing with very, very preliminary information. And you’re saying that she should’ve then revealed classified information to the world, which would have been something that she should have been criticized about if she did that.
But she didn’t. She did her job.
And so the- — she – they know that’s not a good sticking point, so now they’re trying any and everything they can.
MR. MARTIN: Hawk, what does bother me – and the Administration does have to deal with this – [is] when the CIA says the FBI made a change to the talking points, and then they come back and say, “Sorry. It actually was us. It wasn’t them” – the whole issue of, well, who – who took information out, who put it in. “We didn’t want to tip al Qaeda off.” That’s what Petraeus said.
So, to me, the problem is the very people who were the decision makers – their stories are not being consistent; and, frankly, that is what’s also confusing folks. And – and you don’t have, to me, the critical individuals who are stepping up and saying, “No. This is exactly what happened,” in terms of Secretary of State Clinton, in terms of Petraeus with the CIA.
MAJ. GEN. HAWKINS: Yeah. You know, in – in the intelligence arena, as – as well as in – in many different [genres], you have something called “cognitive bias,” and that’s very prevalent in – in intelligence, where you have silos. You have the FBI silo. You have the CIA silo. You have the State Department silos, and they don’t really talk to each other. And clearly, if something goes wrong, they certainly don’t accept –
MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]
MAJ. GEN. HAWKINS: — the – the hard hits for each other.
It is crystal-clear, however, that – that, given the trace of the intelligence here, it leads back to a faux pas at CIA. And it’s very interesting, in my travels in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and – and Amsterdam the week before Thanksgiving, everyone seems to feel that our foreign policy today is the best for global effect for the goodness of the United States. And I think we have some folks here in Washington that cannot handle that. They cannot stand that fact.
MR. MARTIN: Avis and Melanie, the President has said he has not made a decision who is – he is going to nominate for Secretary of State. Do you believe he should nominate Susan Rice? And what should people do to let their voices be heard to show a – a sign of, “Look, we[’ve] got your back,” when it comes to these attacks?
DR. JONES-DEWEEVER: I’ll definitely take the first half of that. Definitely, he should nominate Susan Rice. She is eminently qualified. This woman has an amazing public service career. Her academic credentials are absolutely stellar: San- — Stanford University; Oxford University, Ph.D.; the best dissertation in the whole United Kingdom, by the way; and 20 years, as I mentioned, of stellar service – and also, obviously, wonderful service in the UN, in her current role. I mean she was able to really broker what happened with regards to the peaceful, eventually, transition of power – well, not peaceful, but ultimately the transition of power in Libya. She was the one who was able to negotiate all of those little ponds that had to be deliberated in the UN. She has been outstanding. She deserves this opportunity to get the proper consideration for this position.
In terms –
MR. MARTIN: Gotcha.
DR. JONES-DEWEEVER: — of what to do, Melanie has really organized –
MR. MARTIN: Real quick.
DR. JONES-DEWEEVER: — some wonderful efforts.
MS. CAMPBELL: Ask people to just sign the petition [to] stop this – the partisan attacks.
MR. MARTIN: Where’s the petition?
MS. CAMPBELL: It’s on the NCBCP website, ncbcp.org, or Twitter acc- — or Twitter hash tag “supportAmb#Rice.”
MR. MARTIN: Okay. All right. And also earlier, you said that under the Clinton Administration, the attacks on Alexis Herman, that it was Secretary of State. It was actually when she was appointed Secretary of –
MS. CAMPBELL: Ye- —
MR. MARTIN: — Labor.
MS. CAMPBELL: — yeah. Yes, I said – I – I meant –
MR. MARTIN: All right. It’s all –
MS. CAMPBELL: — to say “Secretary of Labor.”
MR. MARTIN: It’s all good.
MS. CAMPBELL: Appreciate it.
MR. MARTIN: It’s all good. Just to make it sure. I’m sure folks ’ll be sending a[n] email, “That’s not it!” so –
MS. CAMPBELL: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: — we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a bunch, and we’ll be monitoring what happens with this story.
MS. CAMPBELL: Thank you.
DR. JONES-DEWEEVER: Thank you.