Republicans Hold Fire on Rice, but Controversy Still Looms
Without any leverage to block Susan Rice from succeeding Tom Donilon as President Obama's national security adviser, Republicans appeared resigned to her appointment Wednesday, but unready to let go of doubts about the administration's leadership on national security issues.
Some of Obama's staunchest attackers in Congress—who have held the handling of the Benghazi, Libya, attack as Exhibit A of a major security failure worsened by an apparent effort to protect the president's reelection campaign—did not come out swinging Wednesday.
"Obviously, I disagree with POTUS' appointment of Susan Rice as national security adviser, but I'll make every effort to work with her on important issues," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a tweet.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., took a similar tack on Twitter.
"Ambassador Rice did a disservice to the nation when she made misleading statements about Benghazi," she said. "However, it's POTUS' call and I'll work with her going forward."
Other Republicans, like Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bob Corker of Tennessee, declined to make any reference to the lingering controversy and simply welcomed her to the new position.
Republicans shot down a potential nomination of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice for secretary of State last year over questions about her role in first describing the Benghazi attack as a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video, rather than a planned terrorist attack.
GOP strategists said Republicans were not surprised by the appointment and recognize they cannot stop it, since the position is not subject to Senate confirmation. But they do not expect the issue to die down and, if anything, the selection only intensifies Republican animosity toward and lack of trust in the administration.
"Republicans see this as a slap in the face because of the Benghazi fiasco and how Rice tried to propagate talking points that seemed to be viewed more for protecting the president's campaign than really getting down to what happened," said Ron Bonjean, a GOP strategist. "Republicans will question her credibility when it comes to national security issues—that her judgment is off and it could add to controversies in the future if there are questionable national security moves made by the White House."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Rice likely faces a chilly reception on Capitol Hill, especially since her selection to the post clearly appears designed to avoid the Senate confirmation process.
"I don't think she is one who is likely to immediately have a lot of support on both sides of the aisle, for the reason that she said a lot of things that turned out not to be true," he said.