Nightly News   |  December 13, 2012

Obama: Rice did 'an outstanding job'

The attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi provoked a firestorm of criticism directed toward Rice after her appearance on Sunday talk shows in September. Eventually Rice met with her Republican critics, who accused Rice of twisting facts to play politics. And despite being publically defended by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, it’s John Kerry who now becomes the next logical choice to be secretary of state. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>> for more on what went on behind the scenes of this decision we want to turn to our chief foreign affairs columnist andrea mitchell in the washington newsroom. andrea, what happened here?

>> this is so dramatic, and the personal relationship is part of it. the president is going to see susan rice at the white house tomorrow. susan rice 's many defenders, brian, are trying to figure out how republicans managed to deny the president his top choice for secretary of state without benefit of a nomination or hearing. tonight the president said she was qualified for the job. susan rice was a loyal team player for barack obama . late today he spoke to our sacramento affiliate kcra.

>> she's done an outstanding job. i could not be prouder with her. she will continue to be one of the top members of my national security team.

>> rice's trouble began with the sunday show appearances in september on benghazi. what looked like a job audition to become secretary of state.

>> what happened in benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what happened moments before in cairo.

>> her comments were based on cia talking points that proved wrong. it was a terror attack , not a protest. republicans accused rice of twisting the facts to play politics. the president dramatically defended her.

>> if senator mccain and senator graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me.

>> but rice was in limbo, not officially nominated but buried under an avalanche of leaks.

>> i relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community . i made clear that the information was preliminary.

>> rice's request to meet with the republican critics backfired horribly.

>> bottom line, i'm more disturbed now than i was before.

>> we are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get.

>> for john mccain many say it was personal. rooiz rice his iraq policy during the 2008 campaign. but the crushing blow came from a republican senator, a woman rice counted on as an ally.

>> the u.n. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of the contentious presidential election.

>> in public the president signaled rice should tough it out.

>> susan rice is extraordinary. couldn't be prouder of the job that she's done.

>> hillary clinton also defended her.

>> susan rice has done a great job as our u.n. ambassador.

>> but republicans didn't back off. that makes john kerry , the foreign relations chairman, who has undertaken tough secret missions for the president the logical next choice to be secretary of state.

>> i'm just going to continue to do my work. tonight john kerry issued a statement saying as someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands how difficult politics can be, i felt for her throughout the last difficult weeks. but he added, i know that she will continue to serve with great passion and distinction. brian?

>> andrea mitchell in the d.c. newsroom. andrea, thanks. let's get