WASHINGTON — The top Republican to oppose a nomination of Susan Rice as new secretary of state softened his opposition and said Sunday he was open to hearing her explain why she declared the burning of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was part of a protest rather than a terrorist attack.
"I'd give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on Fox News Sunday. "I'd be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her."
Also Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a critic of how the administration handled fallout from the Benghazi attack, said President Barack Obama more than Rice is responsible for her television comments claiming the Sept. 11 Libyan attack was a spontaneous eruption from protesters angry over an anti-Islam video.
"I blame the president above all others," Graham said on ABC's This Week.
Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been highly praised by Obama in his first term, and his White House has signaled that the president is considering her to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Rice appeared on several Sunday talk shows after the consulate attack and said that the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were prompted by the video. Republicans immediately suggested the administration was trying to cover up the incident in the weeks before the presidential election.
Last week, Rice said she had relied "solely and squarely" on preliminary information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucuses with Democrats, said Rice should be allowed to explain herself further before being summarily rejected by the Senate. "I think we ought to find out before we decide on whether she's a good or bad public servant," Lieberman said on CNN's State of the Union.