Republicans led by political strategist Karl Rove lashed out at President Barack Obama Wednesday for elevating U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to White House national security adviser, suggesting she should be fired rather than kept on for what they described as misleading the American people on the Benghazi attack last September.
"This is a defiant gesture by the president saying to the Republicans: I know you think she lied, she misled the country, but who cares. I'm doing it," Rove said on Fox News Wednesday, adding that her appointment is just more evidence that the president plans to become more partisan and "get more in the face of Republicans."
Two of Obama's fiercest critics, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, also blasted the decision.
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"I can't imagine ... that we would be keeping Ambassador Rice in any significant position, much less promoting her to an important position," Paul, the Kentucky Republican, said on Fox News. "How will [the administration] ever have the authority for people to believe what they're saying when they're promoting someone who directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi?"
"I really question the president's judgment in promoting someone who was complicit in misleading the American public," Paul added.
Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, agreed.
"It's curious the president selected her for a position that does not require Senate confirmation. There is no way she could get through that process," said Chaffetz, who was one of the first in Congress to raise serious questions about the administration's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
"I am sure she is a nice pers
on, but she lacks judgment. She claims to have read the daily intelligence brief, and anyone who was following what was happening in Libya would have known terrorism was likely a factor in the incident in Benghazi," Chaffetz told The Daily Beast.
Their comments came shortly before the president announced that Rice would be taking over from Tom Donilon, the current national security adviser, who reportedly has been ready for some time to step down.
"Susan is the consummate public servant - a patriot who puts her country first," Obama said while announcing Rice's appointment Wednesday during a Rose Garden ceremony.
The president also announced the nomination of former White House aide Samantha Power to replace Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Power is a human rights advocate and expert on genocid
Rice was roundly criticized by Republicans last September when she appeared on Sunday talk shows and described the deadly attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead as the "spontaneous" outgrowth of protests over an anti-Muslim video. Her assessment came from "talking points" she had been given ahead of her appearances.
But Rice was later accused by many Republicans of misleading the American people about what happened after the administration was forced to acknowledge that al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists had carried out the attack independent of any protests.
At that time, Rice was said to be under consideration for secretary of state. But Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, among other Republicans, made it clear she would never be confirmed because of her erroneous statements about what prompted the incident in Benghazi.
Rice later withdrew her name from consideration.
Obama "intentionally" did not nominate Rice for secretary of state "because he did not want her facing Senate confirmation," Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said Wednesday on Fox News' "America's Newsroom."
"She was either used via the talking points or she was complicit in the drafting of the talking points, and I don't think it's asking too much that she answer those questions before she offer herself for a promotion to something as important as national security adviser," Gowdy said.
For his part, McCain tweeted Wednesday that he "obviously" disagreed with the president's decision. But he added in his tweet, "I'll make every effort to work w/ her on imp't issues."
And Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire tweeted, "Amb Rice did a disservice to the nation when she made misleading stmts abt #Benghazi.However, its POTUS' call & I'll work with her going fwd."
But Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia actually came to Rice's defense.
"A lot of people are raising concerns because of Benghazi, but I have said from the beginning that I think she was thrown under the bus and given the information that she repeated on the Sunday shows," Isakson said on MSNBC's "Jansing & Co." "She's a competent individual. ... This is a nonconfirmable position, so she's going to be the security adviser."
Rice's statements on Benghazi have since been blamed on how the talking points she spoke from were put together. They originated with the CIA and underwent several rewrites, which she had nothing to do with, to essentially strike any references to the attack being staged by terrorists.
But Chaffetz says Rice should have known better and should have spoken out about the possibility of terrorist involvement, despite the script she was provided.
What is troubling, he said, is that "she used her good name to try to convince the American people of this bogus story.
"She has to take some responsibility for that; the president is obviously not holding her accountable. It's what is so troubling about the entire Benghazi incident. People are getting promoted for a job poorly done," he said.
Rice's appointment also drew criticism from former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough, now the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"This is the president saying, 'I'm in my second term and I'm going to do whatever I want to do,'" he said on his program, noting that Rice's appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
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He suggested that Republicans would not let it go and that would lead to even deeper divisions between the president and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Former Clinton adviser James Carville said Republicans were right to treat the appointment as an "in-your-face" rebuff to their Benghazi probe.
"My guess is that he wanted her to be secretary of state and he felt like she kind of got railroaded there ... but he obviously thinks a great deal of Ambassador Rice. Like I say, he wanted her to be secretary of state," Carville said on MSNBC.
"She's not confirmable and it's like a message that he's going to stick by," Carville added. "He views her as a competent person and probably as a friend of his. You know, I think it's an in-your-face appointment and he feels good about making it."
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