If U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was bullied by Republicans into removing herself from Secretary of State consideration, she did her best to avoid letting them have the victory during an exclusive interview Thursday night with NBC News’ Rock Center with Brian Williams.
“Today, I made the decision that it was the best thing for our country, for the American people that I not continue to be considered by the president for nomination of secretary of state,” Rice said. “I didn’t want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country.”
Sen. John McCain had vowed to block Rice’s nomination by any means necessary, citing her role in the administration’s incomplete response to the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. And the White House may have wanted to avoid a politically costly Senate fight over her nomination.
Asked by Williams whether she was “blameless,” Rice defended herself.
“Brian, I don’t think anybody is ever wholly blameless, but I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I didn’t mislead, I didn’t misrepresent, I did the best with the information that the United States government had at the time.”
Rice added that the controversial talking points she used on television after the attacks were “contorted into something much more nefarious.”
But when asked by Williams whether she’d been “set up,” Rice refused to blame others.
“I’m not a victim; I wasn’t set up. You know, Brian, I think it’s best, when you live through something like this, from my point of view, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience. I know who I am, I see myself on the television screen in all my different outfits, and I hear things said about me that I know don’t bear any relation to who I am.”
She added: “We’re in a sad place, frankly, when national security—national security officials—and potential candidates for secretary of state get caught up in a political vortex.”
Rice told Williams that she believes that she was “under serious consideration” for the job, which she would have been “honored” to take on. The woman who had once been the youngest assistant secretary of state in history asked: “How can you not want to, in my field, serve at the highest possible level?”