November 16 2012

Susan Rice: Not a Victim

Charlotte Hays

Well, it had to happen—female lawmakers in the Democratic Party trooped into a Capitol Hill press conference to upbraid critics of U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice as sexist and racist:

In unusually personal terms, the Democratic women lashed out at Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham who earlier this week called Rice unqualified and untrustworthy and promised to scuttle her nomination if President Barack Obama nominates her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy," said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the next chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. "There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. McCain and others."

At a Capitol Hill news conference, the female lawmakers, the majority of them African American like Rice, suggested that the Republicans are bitter about Obama's re-election and taking it out on U.N. ambassador.

The Republicans’ criticism couldn’t have anything to do with the falsehoods Rice spread on no fewer than five separate TV shows about the terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including our ambassador, could it? Nah, the Republicans just want to beat up on a woman.

It should be noted that, as of General David Patreaus’ testimony on the Hill today, it appears that we now know that Ambassador Rice’s untruths can’t be blamed on the CIA. The only question now is who is responsible for Rice's talking points. And did  Rice knowingly mislead the public, at the height of a campaign, or was tricked into doing so?

President Obama was the first to play what Katie Pavlich calls “the victim card” with regard to GOP senators who are demanding to know more about the source of Rice’s remarks:

“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said. “But to go after the UN Ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi?”

I admire Kirsten Powers, the maverick Democrat who works for Fox and the Daily Beast, for being critical of President Obama's stunt.She wrote:

It's absurd and chauvinistic for Obama to talk about the woman he thinks should be Secretary of State of the United States as if she needs the big strong man to come to her defense because a couple of Senators are criticizing her.  

Believe it or not, Rice isn't the first potential Cabinet nominee to be opposed by members of Congress up on the Hill.  Obama also left out the inconvenient detail that there is another senator who has Rice in the crosshairs:  Sen. Kelly Ayotte.  But perhaps a female Senator holding Rice accountable didn't sound menacing enough in the era of the "War on Women."

This is fine—up to a point. I believe that Powers, possibly like Rice, has been duped by the president. The president isn't really stepping forward to defend a damsel in distress. He's not being chauvinistic. The president is engaging in a diversionary tactic. He knows Rice can take care of herself (after all, she is chums with some of the world’s most notorious dictators). 

The president is playing the victim card not because he is definding his helpless little ambassador but because he wants to deflect scrutiny from how the administration handled Benghazi. So it’s silly to accuse him of chauvinism. That’s what he wants—he wants us to get all huffy and raise the issue of sexism, which is not germane at all here. We need to remain focused on how Benghazi was handled. Our national honor may be involved.

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