WASHINGTON — Susan E. Rice was playing stand-in on the morning of Sept. 16 when she appeared on five Sunday news programs, a few days after the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.And see Maureen Dowd, who gets it on Benghazi, "Is Rice Cooked?"
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would have been the White House’s logical choice to discuss the chaotic events in the Middle East, but she was drained after a harrowing week, administration officials said. Even if she had not been consoling the families of those who died, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Mrs. Clinton typically steers clear of the Sunday shows.
So instead, Ms. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, delivered her now-infamous account of the episode. Reciting talking points supplied by intelligence agencies, she said that the Benghazi siege appeared to have been a spontaneous protest later hijacked by extremists, not a premeditated terrorist attack. Within days, Republicans in Congress were calling for her head.
In her sure-footed ascent of the foreign-policy ladder, Ms. Rice has rarely shrunk from a fight. But now that she appears poised to claim the top rung — White House aides say she is President Obama’s favored candidate for secretary of state — this sharp-tongued, self-confident diplomat finds herself in the middle of a bitter feud in which she is largely a bystander.
“Susan had a reputation, fairly or not, as someone who could run a little hot and shoot from the hip,” said John Norris, a foreign-policy expert at the Center for American Progress. “If someone had told me that the biggest knock on her was going to be that she too slavishly followed the talking points on Benghazi, I would have been shocked.”
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