Following up on a story Rachel mentioned at the top of the show last night, Susan Rice will head to Capitol Hill today, where she’s scheduled to meet with the same Republican senators who’ve spent a few weeks trying to destroy her reputation.
Ms. Rice, the president’s ambassador to the United Nations and a front-runner to be the next secretary of state, will meet with Senator John McCain of Arizona and two other Republican senators who have excoriated her, saying she provided a misleading account of the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Ms. Rice asked for the meeting, according to a government official. Mr. McCain seemed to soften his opposition to her potential nomination on “Fox News Sunday” and said “she deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself.” Also attending the meeting will be Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, officials said. Ms. Rice will be accompanied by Michael J. Morell, the acting C.I.A. director.
In terms of the significance of the meeting, it now appears Rice’s nomination to replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department is practically a foregone conclusion – it’s hard to imagine the White House going to such lengths unless Rice were slated for a promotion. Indeed, she has additional meetings scheduled for tomorrow with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), soon to be the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
The fact that Rice will be accompanied by the acting CIA director is also significant – the crux of the Republican smear campaign is that Rice, shortly after the attack in Benghazi, shared with the public the best intelligence available at the time, as prepared by the CIA and other agencies. Morell will be there to back up Rice’s record, and remind McCain & Co. that condemning Rice doesn’t really make any sense.
And in the larger context, don’t be surprised if today’s meeting becomes a face-saving gesture for the Republicans who’ve tried to sully her reputation.
By setting up a closed-door discussion, allowing participants to clear the air, the White House is giving McCain, Graham, and Ayotte some special attention and a way out of their own mess. They can, in other words, come out of today’s meeting saying, “We had serious questions, and we’re glad Rice took the time to answer them.” If they then drop the filibuster threat, they’d look less ridiculous.
At least, that’s the idea. In practice, the GOP campaign against Rice has always been detached from reality, and facts from Rice and Morell may not matter, but from the administration’s perspective, it can’t hurt to try.