McCain Cries Wolf on Rice

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 26 2012 9:55 AM

McCain Cries Wolf on Rice

I'm seeing a lot of people cite yesterday's Fox News Sunday interview as proof that McCain has "softened" his opposition to a possible Susan Rice nomination to State.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

WALLACE: Is there anything that Ambassador Rice can do to change your mind?
McCAIN: Sure. She can—I'd give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. I'd be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.
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One problem with this happy narrative: McCain said basically the same thing on November 18, when his reward for re-re-re-threatening the Rice nomination was being invited back onto Sunday TV to talk about it.

SCHIEFFER: [Y]ou said once again that you would oppose the nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state. A lot of people in the administration say she is the odds-on favorite to replace Hillary Clinton. Because of her performance on television after it the Benghazi attacks when she said it was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt, and not—and was not a terrorist attack, are you standing fast on that?
McCAIN: Well, she has a lot of explaining to do. And I'm curious why she has not repudiated those remarks. On this show, the Libyan national president, obviously, said it was al Qaeda.

Slightly different question (can she change your mind vs. can you change your mind), but basically the same answer. Having threatened to stand athwart Foggy Bottom yelling "stop," McCain swiftly turned the Stop Rice campaign back into a fractal of the larger Benghazi Truth campaign. This was always the problem with his campaign—no other Republican could get the same attention,* but no other Republican generates the same colon-deep groans from reporters who have watched him lead moral crusades against his victorious electoral opponents again and again. Instead of asking about Benghazi (an increasingly moot question, as House and Senate leaders don't want yet more investigations), reporters were asking about McCain's impossible odds of blocking a black, female State nominee.

*I was one of four reporters who bothered to stop by an announcement, by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), that 100,000 signatures had been collected demanding a fresh Benghazi tribunal. Gohmert didn't stick around for questions and I don't think anyone wrote this up.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.