Obama Warns Sens. McCain & Graham to Back Off Attacks on Rice

By Pete Winn | November 14, 2012 | 2:37 PM EST

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks to her French counterpart, Gerard Araud, at the U.N. General Assembly during the election of 18 new members of the Human Rights Council, on Monday, November 12, 2012 (U.N. Photo by Rick Bajornas)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama told Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Wednesday to back off their attacks against U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said.

At his first news conference in eight months, Obama was asked: “Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearing d on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Sec. of State they will do everything in their power to block her nomination.  As Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I’d like your reaction to that and would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?”

Obama replied: “Let me say specifically about Susan Rice: she has done exemplary work.

“She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace,” he said.

“As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” Obama said.

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“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And 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 besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”

Rice is reportedly on the short list to be nominated to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State.

She stirred up controversy when she told a series of Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16 that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, five days earlier had been a  “spontaneous reaction” to an online video clip denigrating the Prophet Mohammed.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, which was subsequently dubbed a terrorist attack.

Immediately after the statement, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: “Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for #Benghazi.”

On Sunday, on CBS “Face the Nation,” Graham said: “I think Susan Rice would have an incredibly difficult time getting through the Senate. I would not vote for her unless there’s a tremendous opening up of information explaining herself [on Benghazi] in a way she has not yet done.”

McCain said Wednesday that he “will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State.”

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