House Republicans have denied charges from Democrats in the Congressional Black Caucus that the strong criticism leveled at U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has more to do with being a black woman than how she does her job.
“That’s absolutely false,” said Texas Rep. Michael Burgess on CNN’s “Starting Point,” when host Soledad O’Brien said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., has argued that opposition to Rice resulted from the fact that “she’s black and she’s a woman.”
“I don’t know where Rep. Clyburn gets his information, but I will just tell you he’s factually incorrect,” he said.
Rice has been floated as President Barack Obama’s top choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she leaves her post sometime next year, a possibility that ruffles Republican’s feathers because of how she handled the Benghazi terrorist attack, Politico
Clyburn said some of the words and phrases used by people in both the House and Senate — including Graham and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who have most vocally criticized her — reek of the southern racism he said he and Rice grew up with.
“My senior senator and Sen. McCain sort of went after Susan Rice in what I thought was an unfair way,” Clyburn said. “I responded rather quickly that I thought that they were aiming their arrows at the wrong person.”
He questioned how McCain could call Rice, a Rhodes scholar, incompetent considering his selection of Sarah Palin to be vice president and because the longtime Senator “can’t hold a candle to her intellectually.”
“I don’t like those words,” Clyburn said. “Say she was wrong for doing it, but don’t call her incompetent. That is something totally different. A lot of very competent people sometimes make errors.”
Calling some of the phrases he has heard in recent weeks “code words,” Clyburn added that “these kinds of terms that those of us, especially those of us who were born and raised in the South, we would hear these little words and phrases all of our lives and we’d get insulted by them. Susan Rice is as competent as anybody you will find.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., denied that was the reason he had taken direct aim at her. Since she blamed the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on an anti-Muslim documentary, he said, her performance deserved the criticism that has been sent her way.
“Well, when you can’t answer the question, you attack the questioner,” he said on Fox News. “The only color I’m worried about when it comes to Benghazi is red — blood red, the death of four Americans.”
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who recently took over as chair of the caucus, said she was concerned that the attacks on Rice were not based on how she handled her job, but on race and sex.
"It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities,” Fudge said to Fox News.
After reading a letter sent by 97 House Republicans to Obama opposing the possible nomination of Rice for Clinton’s job, Clyburn said he was concerned about the building ferocity with which she has taken blame over the official Benghazi statement in the days after the attack.
Rice has been roundly criticized for blaming the Benghazi attack on popular reaction in the Muslim world to an offensive video, rather than more accurately calling it a suspected act of terrorism, which it was at the time.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified last Friday that the initial talking points distributed to officials throughout the Obama administration included information on both the video and the belief that it could be an act of terror.
He told members of the House and Senate in hearings that the terrorism concerns were later removed because intelligence officials were not satisfied they had enough information to say that part to the American public.
In the letter to Obama, the 97 members of Congress blame Rice for what they see as an intentionally incomplete report that was potentially part of a cover-up.
“Though Ambassador Rice has been our Representative to the U.N., we believe her misleading statements over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world,” the letter said.
“Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi affair.”
Several female members of the House have defended Rice forcefully against the two senators, suggesting their frustration with the ambassador is misplaced and uncalled for.
"To batter this woman because they don't feel they have the ability to batter President Obama is something we the women are not going to stand by and watch," said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis. "Their feckless and reckless speculation is unworthy of their offices as senators."
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