by Roland Martin
(CNN) — Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte really want us to believe that their shameful behavior toward United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice is all about getting to the truth about what happened in Libya, but the truth is that this is the first salvo in a GOP war against President Barack Obama over the next four years.
Do they think Americans are dumb enough to believe that Rice, who had no responsibility over intelligence or approving security requests at the State Department, is the main person who should be answering their queries over what happened in Benghazi that led to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens?
These three continue to assert that Rice should have known better than to read talking points on several Sunday morning shows provided to her by the intelligence community, as well as provide an assessment that went outside of what she was told.
Is it fair that she be asked about those talking points? Of course. But to somehow try to pin the blame on her is downright offensive.
It has been amazing to watch the degree to which U.S. senators don’t want to criticize Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has jurisdiction over the department. Yes, Clinton, and not Rice, oversees U.S. ambassadors across the world, and it is her department that denied the security requests from Stevens.
If there is anyone who should be answering questions about security of our consulate in Libya, it’s Clinton. Instead, it’s all Rice, all day.
McCain, Graham and Ayotte also want to know why the intelligence was so botched, so what do they do? Try to pin that on Rice as well. Again, it has been stunning to see the degree in which members of Congress are afraid to even utter David Petraeus’ name, as if vigorously questioning the assessment of the Central Intelligence Agency, which he ran before a sex scandal forced him to resign, is off limits.
If GOP senators are demanding intelligence answers, then they should continue to haul leaders of various agencies down to Congress to testify under oath. Instead, they’ve made the calculation to turn Rice into their piñata, desperate to scuttle a potential secretary of state nomination.
What finally took the cake was seeing Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins raise questions about Rice and the handling of the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa.
Seriously? Now they are trying to pin those bombings on Rice?
This has turned into a charade that is shameless, pathetic and embarrassing.
Now it’s Obama’s turn to play hardball and make clear to the GOP that he won’t get pushed around with his appointees in his second term.
After January 1, he should make clear to the nation that he is going to appoint the eminently qualified Rice to be his secretary of state, and dare the U.S. Senate to deny him his pick.
The president should send an unmistakable signal to the GOP that he won’t be bullied by anyone. He forcefully defended Rice in a news conference a week ago and publicly thanked her at this week’s Cabinet meeting, but the ultimate sign of confidence — and strength — would mean forgoing the easy pick of U.S. Sen. John Kerry and daring them to stop Rice.
Obama shouldn’t be afraid to engage in a public battle with the GOP. To heck with the naysayers who say Rice is damaged goods. What’s damaged is the logic of McCain, Graham, Ayotte and Collins, who look foolish every day with their remarks about Rice.
Obama won. Romney lost. And before him, McCain. Now it’s time for the president to make clear he has no plans to be an idle bystander in another attack on a member of his Cabinet.
Mr. President, it’s clear the GOP is itching for a fight going into the new year. So give it to them. And show them who is boss.
Editor’s note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House.” He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, “Washington Watch with Roland Martin.”