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Rich Lowry: The agony of Susan Rice

Published: November 24, 2012

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is set to go straight from misleading the country about a matter of national security to a promotion.

A top candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Rice famously purveyed erroneous information about the Benghazi terror attack on five Sunday shows a few days after the deadly incident.

But, hey, these things happen. The conventional wisdom says Republicans should get over it and concentrate their energies on more useful pursuits like caving to President Barack Obama on taxes. We are supposed to believe that Rice's performance was one of a series of innocent mistakes that coincidentally minimized a terror attack in the weeks before a close-fought presidential election.

Rice assured everyone that Benghazi was a “spontaneous reaction” to an anti-Muhammad video. It was then exploited by “opportunistic extremist elements.”

It didn't take a degree in international relations, or even in a stint at the Model U.N. as a teenager, to recognize this as transparent nonsense. On “Face the Nation” that very morning, the president of Libya directly contradicted Rice in saying the attack was an al-Qaida-linked preplanned act of terror. But Mohamed Magariaf didn't have the benefit of the best work of the U.S. intelligence community.

Rice hewed to talking points provided to her that were grievously wrong. How they got so wrong is now one of the great mysteries of the Benghazi controversy. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said on “Meet the Press” last weekend that “the intelligence community had it right, and they had it right early.”

Susan Rice's allies make two defenses of her. One is her hackish susceptibility to inherently implausible talking points. This is a version of the defense the president made of her at his press conference last week, chivalrously insisting that she “had nothing to do with Benghazi.”

The other is that attacks on her are racist and sexist because she's a black woman. Richard Wolffe of MSNBC explained it all on “Hardball” the other night. According to Wolffe, Susan Rice is a hard-nosed foreign policy hawk just like John McCain is on Iran and Libya, so he concludes there can only be one reason the Arizona senator is gunning for her.

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