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Dems defend Rice against Benghazi accusations

Top Democrats are rallying to defend U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice against a wave of attacks coming from Republicans in Congress, who are seeking to blame her for the administration’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the Benghazi consulate. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for Rice’s resignation ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

Top Democrats are rallying to defend U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice against a wave of attacks coming from Republicans in Congress, who are seeking to blame her for the administration's response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the Benghazi consulate.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for Rice's resignation Friday due to Rice's statements on Sept. 16 saying that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous attack spurred by an anti-Islam video. Rice caveated her statement by saying that the administration's analysis was based on initial reports and was subject to change, but several GOP lawmakers have seized on the comments nonetheless -- while ignoring the caveats.

Top Democrats are rallying to defend U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice against a wave of attacks coming from Republicans in Congress, who are seeking to blame her for the administration’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the Benghazi consulate.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for Rice’s resignation Friday due to Rice’s statements on Sept. 16 saying that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous attack spurred by an anti-Islam video. Rice caveated her statement by saying that the administration’s analysis was based on initial reports and was subject to change, but several GOP lawmakers have seized on the comments nonetheless — while ignoring the caveats.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), widely assumed to be in direct competition with Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next year, defended Rice in a statement released late Friday.

"I’m deeply disturbed by efforts to find the politics instead of finding the facts in this debate. Everyone who cares about the five fallen Americans in Benghazi would do well to take a deep breath about what happened and allow Secretary Clinton’s proactive, independent investigation to proceed," Kerry said. "I’m particularly troubled by calls for Ambassador Rice’s resignation. She is a remarkable public servant for whom the liberation of the Libyan people has been a personal issue and a public mission. She’s an enormously capable person who has represented us at the United Nations with strength and character."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) also issued a statement late Friday defending Rice.

"Susan Rice is an exemplary public servant who has worked effectively on behalf of the US and allies like Israel at the UN," he said. "The loss of four Americans in Libya, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, is a horrible tragedy and we should be focused on bringing the perpetrators to justice, not playing politics. My understanding is that the information Ambassador Rice expressed reflected the intelligence community’s most current assessment at that time."

The U.S. mission to the U.N. also released an extensive fact sheet this week touting the mission’s accomplishments under Rice’s tenure.

One story circulating on the Internet today, that Rice skipped the U.N. General Assembly address by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to have lunch with Clinton, is just not true, officials at the U.S. mission to the U.N. told The Cable.

In fact, Rice was attending a ministerial level meeting of the P5 countries program in Clinton’s place. The meeting included U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Rice was in the hall to hear the speech of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a portion of the Netanyahu speech, but the speeches ran behind schedule and Rice judged that participating in the high-level meeting, at Clinton’s request, warranted leaving the hall before Netanyahu’s speech was concluded. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman took her seat in the hall and several other U.S. officials were also there, including Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Middle East Special Envoy David Hale.

Moreover, Rice attended Clinton’s meeting with Netanyahu later that day, officials said.

"Ambassador Rice regretted that she couldn’t join the U.S. delegation to watch Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks," USUN spokesperson Erin Pelton told The Cable. "She told the Israeli delegation as much before she left the GA Hall to represent the U.S. at a working lunch hosted by the U.N. Secretary General for the foreign ministers of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. Among other topics, they discussed the Middle East peace process, Syria, Afghanistan and the Sahel."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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