The escalating fight between three GOP senators and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice is disturbing some Republicans who don't believe Rice is directly to blame for her initial statements about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Speaking out against the criticism of Rice by Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough said Wednesday morning, "This is a clown show."
Scarborough, now a columnist and the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," likened a news conference the Senate trio held following a meeting Tuesday with Rice to what he called the "dumb" press statement GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave immediately after news broke of the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack.
Scarborough suggested it was time for the senators to put their pursuit of Rice aside, which appears to be aimed now at blocking her possible nomination as secretary of state, and to focus on the facts about what happened leading up to the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
"What are they doing? This doesn't help the Republican Party," Scarborough said. "This is like Mitt Romney's dumb press conference the day after Libya exploded and the ambassador died."
"This is a clown show that's going on right now," he added, saying "it makes no sense when it comes to politics."
Scarborough said he could understand the condemnation of Rice if she had anything to do with security for the consulate in Benghazi. He even raised a question about whether she has "the temperament" to be secretary of state. But he said all she did was go on the Sunday television shows and say what she was told by intelligence people to say - that the Benghazi attack appeared to be motivated by an anti-Islam video that was responsible for setting off anti-American protests throughout the Middle East.
Scarborough said the senators should back off and focus on the "real political battle" over taxes and spending in Washington and the looming fiscal crisis at the end of the year.
"I don't get it," Scarborough said, adding: "Why would they pick a fight with a woman of color after [Republicans] just got shellacked in the polls among people of color and females?"
In fact, some Democrats and liberal pundits have characterized the attack on Rice as racially-motivated, a charge that Ayotte denied on Tuesday.
On Tuesday night, during an appearance on Fox News's Sean Hannity show, Fox News analyst Juan Williams also took issue with the charge, calling it "sad" that Democrats would play the racial card.
"I think it's reprehensible," he said. "It shouldn't be going on."
But at the same time Williams also said he had a hard time understanding what McCain, Graham, and Ayotte were trying to accomplish with their focus on Rice.
"Sounds like they have an argument now with the acting CIA Director Mike Morrell, who said the changes in the document given to [Rice] were made by intelligence officials or FBI officials," he said.
"Okay. But I don't understand why they say that they still have questions about what Susan Rice knew at the time that she spoke on those five [Sunday morning talk]shows."
"Her job is to tell the American people what our intelligence community says is their official assessment on the ground at the time," Williams added. "And that's what she did."
In her meeting with senators on Tuesday, Rice acknowledged that the information she initially presented on the talk shows was wrong, but not misleading because of what was known at the time.
The administration later acknowledged the attack was a pre-medicated terrorist assault linked to an al-Qaida-affiliated group in Libya. McCain, Graham, and Ayotte have essentially accused Rice, however, of being part of an effort by the Obama administration to cover-up the terrorist link just weeks before the presidential election.
Rice returns to Capitol Hill today to meet with Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
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