Obama pushes back on smear campaign against Susan Rice

Updated
 

President Obama covered a fair amount of ground during a White House press conference today – his first since August – and if you missed it, here’s the full video.

Arguably the most striking moment came when the president was asked about Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) baseless, ugly condemnations of U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice. Obama did little to hide his visible aggravation.

For those who can’t watch clips online, Obama said, “If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me. I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador? Who had nothing to do with Benghazi? To besmirch her reputation? It’s outrageous.”

The president added, “When they go after the U.N. ambassador because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”

What’s more, Obama defended Rice herself, explaining that the ambassador has “done exemplary work” with “skill, professionalism and toughness and grace.” As for her Benghazi remarks, Obama explained that Rice spoke to the media at the White House’s request and “gave the best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.”

The forceful response reinforced the impression that McCain and Graham are acting like intemperate bullies, picking on Rice because they can. Ironically, McCain’s smear campaign, coupled with the president’s pushback, may very well have improved Rice’s chances of becoming the next Secretary of State.

Susan Rice, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Barack Obama

Obama pushes back on smear campaign against Susan Rice

Updated