Rice Hill Tour, Day 2: The Terrain's Getting Rougher
Senators who've heretofore remained fairly neutral on the question of a possible Susan Rice nomination for secretary of State are now signaling doubts about whether she could be confirmed.
In other words, her two-day trip to the Hill is having the opposite effect she and President Obama likely hoped.
"I do think that her meetings up here have raised lots of questions. And there are more reservations about her now than there were before. And that's a problem for her at least with Republicans here in the Senate," Sen. John Thune (R-S.C.) said today on CNN.
"Whether or not she could get confirmed, I don't know. But I think she would have a considerable amount of opposition just based on the reaction some of my colleagues have had to the discussions they've had with her here the last couple days," he added.
Thune characterized Rice as "somebody who hasn't been willing to answer some of the hard questions that many of my colleagues have had regarding the situation in Benghazi."
"I think that demonstrates questions about her judgment and how she would be -- how independent she would be as secretary of state. And that's obviously something very important in a secretary of state," he said.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Rice was able to answer some, but not all, of her questions.
"Ambassador Rice not only received the unclassified talking points which are very brief and not very helpful, but she also had access to classified information in the president's daily intelligence brief," Collins said on CNN. "...I think what she chose to do was to put more emphasis on those reports that supported the narrative of the nonexistent protest of the video being the direct or primary cause of the attacks on our people rather than painting the fuller picture which was much more complex."
Collins said Rice told her that she agreed to go on the Sunday news shows after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused.
"I think she just should have said no and that someone from the White House should have represented the views that the administration wanted put forth those days," the senator said.
Rice and Collins met for 75 minutes today. Rice also sat down with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
"I know that at some point, I may play a semi-important role in who the next secretary of state may be. I would just ask the president to step back for a moment and realize that all of us here hold the secretary of state to a very different standard than most Cabinet members," Corker, the incoming ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) leaves Congress, told reporters outside the meeting.
"We want someone of independence, someone that -- we understand is going to support the administration and their efforts -- but somebody who's transparent and direct," Corker added.
Yesterday, leading Rice critics Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) declared they were more troubled after meeting with the ambassador over Benghazi.
Obama wouldn't answer a question during remarks at his cabinet meeting today about whether he thought the Hill was being fair Rice. He did tell reporters, though, "Susan Rice is extraordinary. I couldn’t be prouder of the job that she’s done as the USPR." At which point, his appointees applauded.