Sen. Collins upset by Rice’s “political role”

UPDATED: Hillary Clinton weighs in

Topics: U.S. Senate, Benghazi, Susan Collins, Susan Rice, Secretary of State, ,

Updated 6:22 p.m.:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Susan Rice has done a “great” job as U.N. ambassador without explicitly endorsing Rice to be her successor.

 

Updated 4:36 p.m.:

In a subsequent interview with MSNBC, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R.-N.H., agrees with Senator Collins that the 1998 embassy bombing “raised some very important questions” about Susan Rice’s fitness for Secretary of State. What are those questions? Ayotte’s not sure:

As I understand it, you know, Senator Collins raised the questions about what her role was there. she has asked for answers about what her role was with respect to embassy security and embassy security requests that were made prior to those two — the attacks on our embassies there and so I don’t know that those questions have been answered but I think they’re important questions that were raised by Senator Collins and I certainly respect her experience in this area.

Neither senator addressed why the embassy bombings are of greater concern now than there were in 2009 during her honeymoon nomination process to be U.N. ambassador. According to a Nexis search, Collins had zero to say at the time about Rice being in a sensitive, high profile foreign policy position.

Ayotte also denied that Republicans stated preference for moving Senator John Kerry to state had anything to do with giving Senator Scott Brown, R.-Mass, another shot at staying in the Senate after his loss to Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, D.-Mass., on Election Day.

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Speaking to reporters after a meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, condemned U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s “political” role following the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. Collins seems to mean that by delivering unclassified talking points that she was authorized to deliver on television, Rice was stumping for the reelection of President Obama. Rice is on everyone’s shortlist of nominees for secretary of state.

This comes a day after Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., expressed the familiar grave concerns about a potential Rice nomination. Yesterday Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., expressed support for Rice.

Widely regarded as a GOP moderate, Collins’ decision to weigh in all but ensures that this informal floor poll on Rice will continue. Among other things, Collins referred to Rice’s former role as undersecretary of state for Africa at the time of the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. What that had to do with the attacks in Libya or Rice’s connection to them as U. N. ambassador was unclear to this listener.

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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