McCain: Susan Rice "not qualified" to be Secretary of State after Benghazi


(CBS News) John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has spoken out recently about what he calls "incompetence" of the Obama administration in dealing with the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Specifically, he called out administration officials for "gross, gross, outrageous statements" made in the days after the attack. 

And as U.N. Ambassador Susan Ricehas been floated this week as a possible replacement for Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, McCain has vowed to try to block her nomination based on her statements following the consulate attack. Wednesday on "CBS This Morning," McCain sharply criticized Rice and Obama for their handling of the Benghazi attack.

McCain reiterated that he is primarily concerned with the "loss of four American lives in Benghazi" on September 11 and "the president not telling the truth about what happened there and what he knew and when he knew it." McCain is pushing for a select committee to investigate the administration's handling of the attack in Libya, to "get to the bottom of this, because the American people deserve the truth."

He defended his pledge to block Susan Rice's confirmation if President Obama nominates her as the next Secretary of State, insisting that "she's not qualified" and criticizing her for asserting the attack was spontaneous in media appearances following the attack.

McCain criticized Rice for going "on national television in defiance of the facts 5 days later," and added, "She is responsible to the Senate of the United States...I was on 'Face the Nation' the morning she came on and told that incredible story and right after the president of the Libyan National Assembly said it was al Qaeda...and yet she never changed her story."

While McCain was open to the possibility that a select investigative committee could clear of Rice of "misleading the American people," and allowed that the president and Secretary of State Clinton held responsibility in the matter as well, he continued his sharply worded attack.

Referring to Rice, he said she was at a minimum, guilty of "not being very bright, because it was obvious that this was not a 'flash mob' and there was additional information by the time she went on every news America."

He insisted, "The consulate in Benghazi was turned into a death house and somebody has to be held responsible."

Turning to the turmoil surrounding now-retired CIA director David Petraeus, McCain said, "He's a soldier, he's a man who understands the responsibilities of office...he is the finest combination of intellect and leadership in American military that I have ever known."

Senator McCain added that General Allen "deserves the benefit of the investigation that is going on now," but maintained that the mission in Afghanistan will not be damaged by the investigation into Allen's conduct, because Allen was set to move to another job. 

Still, McCain expressed concerns about Afghanistan, "We've got much larger problems with the president continuing to announce withdrawals from Afghanistan earlier than his military generals have recommended...I'm not optimistic about how we're going to end up in Afghanistan because of the president's decisions, not General Allen's."