Benghazi story served up by eager Rice has proved a recipe for trouble
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is a political casualty of the LIbyan attack, writes MAUREEN DOWD
Our Rice is better than your Rice. That’s the argument Democrats are aggressively making against Republicans.
And it’s true. Condoleezza Rice sold her soul. Susan Rice merely rented hers on the talk shows one Sunday in September.
Ambitious to be secretary of state, Condi jilted her mentor, Brent Scowcroft, who publicly opposed the Iraq invasion. In 2002 she bolted to the winning, warmongering side with George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, helping them twist intelligence and getting the state department in return.
Ambitious to be secretary of state, Susan Rice wanted to prove she had the gravitas for the job and help out the White House. So the ambassador to the UN agreed to a National Security Council (NSC) request to go on all five Sunday shows to talk about the attack on the US consulate in Libya.
“She saw this as a great opportunity to go out and close the stature gap,” said one administration official. “She was focused on the performance, not the content. People said, ‘It’s sad because it was one of her best performances.’ But it’s not a movie, it’s the news. Everyone in politics thinks, you just get your good talking points and learn them and reiterate them on camera. But what if they’re not good talking points? What if what you’re saying isn’t true, even if you’re saying it well?”
Testifying on Capitol Hill on Friday, the beheaded head spook David Petraeus said the CIA knew quickly the Benghazi raid was a terrorist attack. “It was such a no-brainer,” one intelligence official told me.
Intelligence officials suspected affiliates of al-Qaeda and named them in their original talking points for Rice, but that information was deemed classified and was softened to “extremists” as the talking points were cycled past the department of justice, the state department, the NSC and other intelligence analysts.
As Eric Schmitt of the New York Times wrote, some analysts worried that identifying the groups “could reveal that American spy services were eavesdropping on the militants – a fact most insurgents are already aware of”.
Rice was given the toned-down talking points but she has access to classified information. Though she told Bob Schieffer on CBS’s Face the Nation that the extremist elements could have included al-Qaeda affiliates or al-Qaeda itself, she mostly used her appearances to emphasise the story line of the spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim video. She disputed the contention of the president of Libya’s general national congress, who called the attack “preplanned” when he spoke to Schieffer just before Rice.