NPR Reporters Don't Want to Blame Rice for 'Muddled Messages' On TV, Line Up Shameless Rice Boosters

On Friday night, NPR reporters couldn't say Susan Rice lied on television about the Benghazi attack, only that Senate Republicans make that accusation. In a report on Sen. Kelly Ayotte, reporter Don Gonyea could only manage "The trio accuses Rice of misleading the public in statements she made on television in the days following the attack."

But that wasn't half as shameless at NPR State Department correspondent Michele Kelemen, whose Friday night story lined up Rice supporters to suggest that opposition to Rice is sexist (even for Ayotte?), that Libya is actually a selling point for Rice, and that Republicans are damaging the country's image to oppose her: 


KELEMEN: She's often described as tough and abrasive. But David Rothkopf, CEO of Foreign Policy magazine, says that shouldn't rule her out for the top job at the State Department.

DAVID ROTHKOPF: I don't know anybody who gets to the level she's gotten to who doesn't have those characteristics, and certainly a lot of the secretaries of state that we've had in the past have been known for those characteristics.

KELEMEN: Think James Baker or Henry Kissinger. Rothkopf, who worked with Rice in the Clinton administration, doesn't believe she should be blamed for the muddled messages this administration had on the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, nor does he think the personal attacks on Rice are fair.

ROTHKOPF: Part of it is that different people have personal agendas. They'd like to see somebody else in the job, and I think some of it is sexism. I think some of it has to do with the fact that, you know, there is a certain way to behave that I think men get a lot more latitude with than women.

It grew incredibly perverse when Kelemen started selling Rice's work in Libya as a serious asset, not a downfall:

KELEMEN: If she's tapped as secretary, though, there is a fair debate to be had about her record at the U.N. She negotiated tough sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and one of her former colleagues says she had a virtuoso performance getting a strong resolution on Libya. A former State Department official who dealt with the U.N., Mark Lagon, also sees Libya as a high point of Rice's tenure.

DR. MARK LAGON: One of the reasons why she's been so concerned with atrocities in places like Libya is because she was an official in the Clinton administration responsible for Africa when the Rwandan genocide occurred.

KELEMEN: It was a period Rice clearly regrets. She was emotional when she spoke at a U.N. Genocide Remembrance Day in 2009.

RICE: The memory of stepping around and over those corpses will remain the most searing reminder imaginable of what our work here must aim to prevent.

And for another layer of shameless frosting, Kelemen then found an expert to say that Rice's slavishly loyal reading of the false talking points on Benghazi means she'll be a powerful Secretary of State with the president's ear:

KELEMEN: And while her detractors are many, Rice does have something going for her, says Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Center: her relationship with President Obama.

DR. AARON DAVID MILLER: You need somebody who's very close and of the likely suspects who have been on the list to replace Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice is clearly not only the most loyal, but the one who is likely to have the greatest sway with the president.

KELEMEN: People who have worked with her say Rice can be charming when needed and can throw an elbow when she has to, and that's another asset in this town. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

Kelemen also turned to Miller as she wrapped up a story on Thursday's Morning Edition. Miller suggested Obama would be foolish to back down to Republicans on Rice, and it would hurt the country's image abroad:

KELEMEN: Miller, who advised six secretaries of state, says he's never seen anything like this before. And he doubts President Obama will back down from a fight over a key national security position.

MILLER: It's no way to get started, in terms of image and credibility abroad; backing down in response to political pressures, because you were not prepared to fight hard enough for a Secretary of State that you clearly have signaled is your first choice. And I think the president has done that.

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