The battle over the non-nomination of Susan Rice is over, but controversy over the September 11 attack in Benghazi continues following the UN ambassador's announcement that she was withdrawing from consideration for the nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Ambassador Rice notified the president by phone Thursday afternoon that she would not be a candidate for the job, possibly sparing the President a battle he appeared to welcome shortly after his reelection last month.
"If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama said at a White House news conference in November, as he characterized as "outrageous" the sharply worded criticisms of Rice by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The senators and other Republicans had charged Rice with making false and misleading statements when, appearing on five Sunday news shows five days after the event, she described the armed assault that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and thee other Americans in Benghazi as stemming from demonstrations over an anti-Muslim video on the Internet, rather than a planned terrorist attack Both Obama and Rice have said she was relying at the time on intelligence reports of an incident still in the early stages of investigation.
"When discussing Benghazi, I relied on fully cleared, unclassified points provided by the intelligence community, which encapsulated their best current assessment," Rice said in an op ed article the Washington Post published online Thursday. "I have never sought in any way, shape or form to mislead the American people." But a battle over her nomination would distract from other, more important issues, she said.
"I have never shied away from a fight for a cause I believe in," Rice wrote. "But, as it became clear that my potential nomination would spark an enduring partisan battle, I concluded that it would be wrong to allow this debate to continue distracting from urgent national priorities — creating jobs, growing our economy, addressing our deficit, reforming our immigration system and protecting our national security. These are the issues that deserve our focus, not a controversy about me."
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Photo of Ambassador Susan Rice: AP Images