COLUMBIA, SC — While a U.S. senator from South Carolina is attacking United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, a Palmetto State congressman is defending her.
“To say she was incompetent for reading erroneous information that was provided to her, how does that get to anybody’s competence?” U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, said Thursday of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticisms Wednesday of Rice.
“This woman got a PhD, a Rhodes scholar. I would dare to say (she is) much more competent and much more accomplished than Sarah Palin, who (2008 Republican presidential nominee) John McCain said deserved to be vice president of the United States,” Clyburn said. “Give me a break.”
Rice is at the center of the Washington controversy over a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed.
U.S. Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., and Graham, R-Seneca, pledged Wednesday to block Rice’s nomination if President Barack Obama proposes her to replace Hilary Clinton as secretary of state.
“I don’t trust her,” Graham told reporters, arguing Rice’s statements after the Sept. 11 attacks either intentionally were inaccurate or ignorant. “The reason I don’t trust her is because I think she knew better, and if she didn’t know better, she shouldn’t be the voice of America.”
Obama heatedly objected to Graham’s comments later Wednesday, saying that Rice, as U.N. ambassador, was not responsible for the State Department and did not attempt to mislead anyone. She simply repeated what intelligence sources had told Congress and her, he said.
Graham’s comments also upset Clyburn, who responded on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program Wednesday night.
In part, that’s because Rice has S.C. roots.
“Susan Rice’s roots are in Florence,” Clyburn told MSNBC. “Her father, who – Emmett, who was born there in Florence – didn’t leave there until he was 16 years old. I have been a close friend of his over the years. I’m a close friend with Susan Rice.
“It’s absolutely a shame for this young lady, whose roots are deep in South Carolina soil, to get sullied like this by my senior senator, who I consider to be a good friend,” Clyburn said.
A spokesman said Graham had no response to Clyburn’s comments. “(Graham) is focused on (Rice’s) job performance. Period,” Kevin Bishop said.
Instead, Democrats crowed Thursday about what appeared to be division in the GOP over Graham’s comments. Democrats sent out a news release highlighting comments from three Senate Republicans who would not pledge to block a Rice nomination to head the State Department, which must be approved by the Senate.
“If you’re going to have a fair process to evaluate someone, you can’t go in having already made up your mind,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Rubio, who was vetted for a possible GOP vice presidential pick, is popular in South Carolina, particularly with Tea Party Republicans and has made several trips here. The most recent was a book signing in July.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.