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Should Obama care what House Republicans think of Susan Rice?

November 21, 2012|By Michael McGough
  • U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice is seen speaking at the United Nations on Aug. 30.
U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice is seen speaking at the United… (Bebeto Matthews / Associated…)

Ninety-seven House Republicans this week sent a letter to President Obama opposing the possible nomination of Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, as secretary of State. The letter recycled the conservative meme that Rice, in comments on TV, knowingly misled the nation about whether the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, was an organized terrorist attack or a spontaneous outgrowth of a protest over an anti-Islamic video.
 
The House members, including California's Dana Rohrabacher, John Campbell and Jeff Denham, noted that "Ambassador Rice is widely viewed" -- by Fox News viewers, anyway -- "as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi matter. Her actions plausibly give U.S. allies (and rivals) reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed." (Huh?)
 
The notion that Rice deliberately deceived the nation is difficult to square with the fact that she was relying on "talking points" prepared by intelligence agencies -- and apparently edited by them, not politicos in the White House, to remove the terms "attack," "Al Qaeda" and "terrorism.”
 
But the facts aside, why should Obama pay particular attention to what members of the House think about a potential Cabinet nomination. It's the Senate, not the House, that is empowered by the Constitution to "advise and consent" to such nominations. Of course, a House member -- like any citizen -- can sound off about this or any other subject. But the president doesn't need to take the opinions of House members any more seriously than he does those of editorial writers or, for that matter, random commentators on a website.
 
My guess would be that a lot of the signatories to this letter consider themselves strict constitutional constructionists. If they want to muscle Obama on Cabinet appointments, they should run for the Senate.

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