No grown-ups in ei­ther party when it comes to Su­san Rice

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - Ruben@ruben­navar­ret­te­com.

Which

po­lit­i­cal party is be­hav­ing worse re­gard­ing the pos­si­ble nom­i­na­tion of U.N. Am­bas­sador Su­san Rice to be­come sec­re­tary of state?

It’s a close call. Both Repub­li­cans and Democrats have em­bar­rassed them­selves where Rice is con­cerned.

First, the GOP is ob­vi­ously strug­gling with a lit­tle mis­placed frus­tra­tion over the elec­tion that got away, and many law­mak­ers are chan­nel­ing it to­ward Rice.

What seems to bother Repub­li­cans is not just that the at­tack on an Amer­i­can con­sulate in Beng­hazi, Libya, failed to gain trac­tion dur­ing the fi­nal weeks of the cam­paign. It’s the lack of accountability on the part of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

They are flum­moxed that the White House did not pay a po­lit­i­cal price for its clumsy re­sponse to what we now know was a ter­ror­ist as­sault on Sept. 11. The at­tack — in which the U.S. am­bas­sador to Libya and three other Amer­i­cans were killed — was ini­tially at­trib­uted to a protest against an anti-Mus­lim video.

It would have been help­ful to Repub­li­cans if the pic­ture about what hap­pened in Beng­hazi — and how badly the ad­min­is­tra­tion bun­gled its re­sponse — had come into fo­cus be­fore votes were cast. It didn’t, and the Democrats dodged a bul­let.

Repub­li­cans have to blame some­one. And that some­one is Rice, who stands ac­cused of act­ing as a mouth­piece for the White House and mis­rep­re­sent­ing the facts when she ap­peared on five talk shows on Sept. 16.

The mad­den­ing part is that Repub­li­cans are right about how poorly Rice han­dled those in­ter­views. She should have sim­ply said she didn’t know all the facts. In­stead, she pushed the line about how this was a protest against a video. It’s also dis­con­cert­ing that — as Repub­li­can Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine said af­ter meet­ing with the am­bas­sador — Rice seems to have “de­cided to play what was es­sen­tially a po­lit­i­cal role at the height of a con­tentious pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign” by go­ing on the shows to ad­vance White House talk­ing points.

But Repub­li­cans are fool­ish to fo­cus mainly on Rice, who really is lit­tle more than a bit player in the af­ter­math of the Beng­hazi at­tack. They should aim higher and ques­tion the ac­tions of the State De­part­ment, the CIA and the White House. Repub­li­cans have also lost sight of what’s really im­por­tant in all this. And it’s not whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion was putting out the story about the video past the point where it knew this was ac­tu­ally a ter­ror­ist at­tack.

What really mat­ters is whether the ad­min­is­tra­tion aban­doned its own diplo­mats un­der siege at the U.S. Con­sulate for more than seven hours, and whether the White House failed to pro­vide backup for two former Navy SEALs who tried to ren­der aid and man­aged to save most of the diplo­matic per­son­nel be­fore be­ing killed. Those ques­tions need an­swers, and Repub­li­cans need to avoid dis­trac­tions that lead them in an­other di­rec­tion.

Mean­while, Democrats need to avoid a messy fight over a Cab­i­net nom­i­na­tion when there are big­ger is­sues to deal with. This will surely be an up­hill climb that wastes a lot of po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal. The con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Rice and her com­ments on TV raises ques­tions about whether she is the most qual­i­fied choice to be Amer­ica’s top diplo­mat. She has too much bag­gage.

Why wouldn’t Obama go with a more sea­soned pick such as Sen. John Kerry of Mas­sachusetts, who is known to covet the job and has the back­ing of key GOP sen­a­tors?

The an­swer: stub­born­ness. In his first term, Obama was fond of re­mind­ing Repub­li­cans that he won an elec­tion and there were con­se­quences. Now that he’s won an­other one, he once again has the op­por­tu­nity to rub his op­po­nents’ noses in their own de­feat by nom­i­nat­ing Rice over their ob­jec­tions.

If he looked around, Obama would see that he has plenty of good choices for sec­re­tary of state. But Su­san Rice isn’t one of them.

Abor­tion op­po­nents are head­ing into the 2013 leg­isla­tive ses­sion with an­other am­bi­tious wish list, in­clud­ing a mea­sure that would ban the pro­ce­dure be­gin­ning in the 20th week of preg­nancy. The ba­sic right to an abor­tion, set out in a 1973 de­ci­sion by the U.S. Supreme Court, still stands.

Tam Thompson: No, States­man, it’s NOT a “ba­sic right.” Stop spin­ning info.

Ca Dozo: One group of peo­ple wants to force their re­li­gious taboos on ev­ery­one. That is not free­dom of re­li­gion; that is op­pres­sion by a group of re­li­gious zealots.

Kurt Mo­gonye: How does the GOP plan to pay for all those ben­e­fits to sin­gle moms on WIC, wel­fare, etc. af­ter the

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