* McCain says Rice has "a lot of explaining to do"
* Graham says he is "very disappointed in Susan Rice"
* Little interest in special panel on Benghazi attack
WASHINGTON, Nov 18 Republican U.S. lawmakers
turned up the heat on Sunday on Susan Rice, saying the U.N.
ambassador - seen as a possible nominee to replace Hillary
Clinton as secretary of state - must testify before Congress on
her remarks after the September attack that killed the American
envoy to Libya.
Two influential Senate Republicans, John McCain and Lindsey
Graham, did not back down on Sunday from their vow made last
week to oppose any attempt by President Barack Obama to put Rice
into a Cabinet position that would require Senate confirmation.
"She has a lot of explaining to do. I am curious why she has
not repudiated these remarks," McCain, the top Republican on the
Senate Armed Services committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation"
Obama last Thursday warned Republicans that if they had a
problem with the U.S. handling of the Benghazi attack in Libya
to "go after me" rather than picking on Rice.
McCain said he wished the president would not waste time
getting mad at him but instead spend the time finding out what
happened in Libya and how could it be prevented in the future.
"She's going to have to come in and testify at some point,
whether it's in a closed hearing or an open hearing," Republican
Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, told the "Fox News Sunday" program, referring to
"We're going to have an open hearing, too. But at some
point, she needs to come in and say what the president or the
White House directed her to say," Chambliss added.
Republicans have criticized Rice for appearing on Sunday
morning news shows five days after the Sept. 11 attack on the
U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and saying that preliminary
information suggested the assault was the result of protests
over an anti-Muslim film rather than a premeditated strike.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three
other Americans were killed in an attack that has raised
questions about the security of the diplomatic mission, U.S.
intelligence about the threat, and the adequacy of the immediate
The White House has said Rice's comments were based on the
best information Rice had at the time. Republicans have used her
early assessment as a cudgel for criticizing the administration
as not being forthcoming about Benghazi. The senators' remarks
last week suggested they would pursue the issue even though the
U.S. presidential election is over.
'DESTROYS THE NARRATIVE'
Graham said Rice's initial explanation helped reinforce the
Obama administration's "narrative" that al Qaeda has been
"Had the truth come out a few weeks before the election that
our consulate in Benghazi had been overrun by an al
Qaeda-sponsored, affiliated militia, that destroys the narrative
we have been hearing for months that al Qaeda's been
dismantled," Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press" show.
"The truth of the matter is nothing could be further from
the truth, and the story she told helped reinforce the political
narrative helpful to the president," Graham said. "I don't know
what she knew, but I know the story she told was misleading. I
don't know why it was misleading."
Asked if Rice has a chance of being confirmed by the Senate
to another post, Graham said he would listen to what she had to
say but he was "very disappointed in Susan Rice."
When McCain was asked if he would support Rice if she were
nominated as secretary of state, McCain said: "Under the present
circumstances, until we find out all the information as to what
happened, I don't think you could want to support any nominee
"This is very, very serious, and it has even larger
implications than the deaths of four Americans," McCain added.
"It goes right to the heart of the 'light footprint' policy that
this administration has been pursuing and all of the failures
throughout the Middle East."
Lawmakers appearing on the Sunday shows expressed no
appetite for the proposal by McCain and Graham for the creation
of a special congressional committee to investigate the Benghazi
attack, rather than have the existing committees with
jurisdiction hold hearings.
"The committees within the United States Senate are very
capable of investigating this in the right way," Chambliss said.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent who has worked
closely with McCain and Graham, added that he disagreed with "my
two amigos" on the matter and that "our committees can handle
this and come up with the answers."
Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate
Armed Services Committee, called the criticism of Rice "one of
the most unfair attacks I've ever seen in Washington in 34
years. Susan Rice was using the unclassified talking points
which were provided by the intelligence community."
"The issue is whether or not Susan Rice should be pilloried
for using a intelligence report which (former CIA chief) David
Petraeus signed off on, which the DNI, the director of national
intelligence, Mr. (James) Clapper, signed off on," Levin said.