Sen. John McCain was so busy Wednesday attacking Susan Rice over statements she made in the aftermath of the murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that he skipped an official briefing on the attack. While he was in high dudgeon before the cameras together with Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Kelly Ayotte making threats to filibuster the rumored nomination of Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and calling for a select investigative committee to look into the matter, the classified, closed-door briefing was being held by a Senate committee on which he sits.
When Sen. Joe Lieberman emerged from that two-hour briefing of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, he said there was no need for a select investigative committee. Another member of the Homeland committee, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said in an interview:
“I do not see the benefit of creating a brand new committee when we already have the Senate’s chief oversight committee, plus the Intelligence Committee, examining this very important matter.”Obviously, for McCain, the benefit might be the possibility he could be the embittered, fist-pounding star of any select committee investigation, a role he would have to cede to another under the current arrangement. If he could pummel Rice over what he and others have unconvincingly claimed to be her misleading statements in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, it would apparently give him some sort of twisted pleasure. But it would serve the nation exactly how?
As Matt Lauer notes in his interview in the video clip above, McCain had no objections to approving another Rice as secretary of state despite her role in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. On Sept. 8, 2002, while the Bush administration was ginning up support for the invasion, Condoleeza Rice, then the president's national security adviser, was on CNN having an interview with Wolf Blitzer:
We do know that [Saddam Hussein] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into Iran, for instance—into Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to—high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.[...]The problem with those statements is that it was known that the aluminum tubes were not suited for making nuclear weapons or anything nuclear. Moreover, contrary to McCain's claims about all the world's intelligence services saying Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that country was not close to having the weapon that would create a mushroom cloud. The administration knew this because French intelligence had so informed it and the State Department and CIA's own investigations had done so as well.
The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly Saddam can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
Specifically, it was known that it was highly dubious that Iraq had obtained from Niger yellowcake—processed uranium ore that provides the fissile material for a bomb. Former ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson had visited Niger and said no such sale. French intelligence had said the same. By the time John McCain was voting for Condi Rice to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state, this story was well known, including the fact that the documents relating to Niger's purported sale of yellowcake were clumsy forgeries.
Nothing Susan Rice has said about Benghazi comes within a country mile of what Condi Rice said a decade ago. But to the bitter, grandstanding McCain, that apparently makes no difference.