Sen. Marco Rubio broke with two fellow foreign policy hawks this morning on whether U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's statements about the Benghazi incident automatically disqualify her from leading the State Department.
"I think if you're going to have a fair process to evaluate someone, you can't go in having already made up your mind," Rubio said at the Washington Ideas Forum.
Yesterday, Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte said they would block Rice if Obama nominated her to the post expected to be vacated by Hillary Clinton. They blame Rice for saying initially that the deadly attack in Benghazi was due to a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video, and was not a terrorist plot.
"If Ambassador Rice is nominated we're going to have hearings, we're going to have meetings," Rubio said. "I think Benghazi will come up. What's very clear is the Sunday after that incident in Benghazi she went on five shows and said that this attack was not terrorist related." But he agreed it was an open question whether she acted out of negligence or was going on information that was provided to her from the intelligence community.
In a sit-down interview with National Journal's Major Garrett, Rubio also talked 2016 and immigration and the fiscal cliff.
Rubio is going to Iowa on Saturday for a fundraiser, which, as Garrett observed, puts him on the grid for the next presidential race.
"My trip to Iowa has nothing to do with 2016," Rubio said -- a statement no one in Washington will take seriously. "It has to do with Gov. (Terry) Branstad. I accepted that invitation when I fully expected Mitt Romney to be the next president of the United States, and believed that in 2016 would be working for his re-election."
But Rubio said his background as the son of middle class Cuban immigrants provides "insight into what our party should be more about." Invoking the shrinking middle class, Rubio said Republicans "need to show how limited government and free enterprise principles can turn that around. And if we do, I think we'll be successful. And if we don't I think we'll have more days like last Tuesday."