Nomination politics mysterious at best

It wasn't just Republicans who sank the non-nomination of Susan Rice.

Though never officially nominated, Susan Rice, this country's ambassador to the United Nations, last week withdrew her name from consideration as President Obama's choice to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Mark that down as another odd twist in a saga that began with the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on an American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the murder of four Americans there, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. That tragedy was followed by Rice's inaccurate explanations of what had occurred during five separate interviews on the Sunday morning news shows and the subsequent official firestorm over what actually occurred and why.

Legitimate questions were raised about Rice's role in this sorry episode, to the point that Republican members of the U.S. Senate, including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Susan Collins, expressed opposition to Rice as Clinton's replacement in the prestigious post of secretary of state.

But while Republican opposition, foolishly criticized by some as being motivated solely by racism and sexism, was a real problem for Rice, it was not her only problem. News leaks from within the Obama administration and Capitol Hill indicated there were plenty of Democrats unhappy for a variety of reasons with the prospect of a Rice nomination.

Secretary Clinton was notably unenthusiastic about Rice as her successor, favoring Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry to fill her spot.

As is often the case in Washington, D.C., the full story behind Rice's withdrawal may never be known. But it would be no great surprise if Rice feels ill-used by Obama administration officials.

She was sent out by Obama administration officials to state repeatedly and emphatically that the Benghazi attack was not an act of terror but, instead, a political demonstration that erupted into violence. With no independent knowledge of what occurred, Rice was given inaccurate information by administration and intelligence sources and used in a way that defies credulity.

Her talk-show statements were known to be inaccurate by many at the time she made them. That's why her statements quickly fell apart under public scrutiny.

President Obama subsequently blamed the confusion over Rice's explanations on the generic "intelligence community." That is too shallow an explanation, even though it's the only one that's been given following official acknowledgement that virtually everything Rice said was inaccurate.

Democrats surely didn't want to see Rice grilled on that issue during Senate confirmation hearings. That wouldn't have been all she would have been asked about. More important than Rice's misstatements is why this country's diplomatic mission in Benghazi was unprotected before the attack and why calls for help were ignored as the attack unfolded.

Unfortunately, these questions were mostly ignored during the recently completed election campaign, with some suggesting that even to raise them was an improper effort by Republicans to gain an electoral advantage.

That claim cannot be made now because the election is over. With Obama safely re-elected, these questions must be answered. This issue is about more than Rice's ambitions and the politics of the nomination process. It's about a murderous terrorist attack on this country's diplomats, and that cannot be ignored.

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