President Obama on Wednesday defended Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a possible replacement for Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, against criticism from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on the Benghazi attacks in Libya.
"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama told reporters at the White House. "I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."
He further added that if the senators are going after Rice "because they think she's an easy target," "[t]hen they've got a problem with me."
Graham and McCain objected to any talk of Rice as secretary of state at a press conference on the Hill earlier on Wednesday, with Sen. Graham saying she is "so disconnected from reality that I don’t trust her." McCain maintained that they would "do whatever is in our power," alluding to a filibuster, to block Rice should Obama decide to go forth with the nomination.
Moments after Obama spoke, Graham released a statement doubling down on his objection to Rice:
“Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.
“We owe it to the American people and the victims of this attack to have full, fair hearings and accountability be assigned where appropriate. Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.”