Obama: Don’t go after Amb. Rice, ‘go after me’

Updated
President Barack Obama answers a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.
President Barack Obama answers a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012.
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

President Obama has Susan Rice’s back.

At a press conference this afternoon, the commander-in-chief came out swinging against Republican senators who are fiercely criticizing the U.N. ambassador, who is rumored to be one of the top candidates to take Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State post when she steps down next year.

Many Republicans blame Rice for publicly stating that the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was caused by a spontaneous riot rather than the terrorist-fueled assault that it has since been revealed to be.

Still, Rice has done “exemplary work,” Obama said. “She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill… and grace. As I said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided before. If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after someone they should go after me.”

Rice initially said the siege came after a protest relating to an anti-Muslim video; later, the State Department told reporters there had been no protest.

Obama said the GOP was trying to “besmirch her reputation” and that “when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they have a problem with me.”

He added on her potential nomination, “If I think she would be the best person to serve America…I will nominate her.”

Three senators –John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire – held a news conference earlier in the day, calling for a joint committee to investigate the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Graham said he was “dead set against” making sure Rice doesn’t get the post.

“She’s so disconnected from reality that I don’t trust her…I want to make sure that we don’t promote anybody that was an essential player in the Benghazi debacle,” he added.

McCain said it was possible they could mount a filibuster of the nomination.

After Obama’s press conference, Graham released a blistering counter statement saying, “ Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi.  I think you failed as commander-in-chief before, during, and after the attack.”

“…Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle,” he added.

Obama: Don't go after Amb. Rice, 'go after me'

Updated