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Collins' new Rice offensive crumbles

American Embassy bombings in Kenya, left, and Tanzania in 1998.
American Embassy bombings in Kenya, left, and Tanzania in 1998.Associated Press

As part of the larger smear campaign against Susan Rice, most Senate Republicans have focused on Benghazi and the intelligence available four days after the attack. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), however, brought up a new line of criticism this week -- by focusing on an old crisis.

After Rice paid Collins a courtesy visit, the Maine Republican told reporters that Rice served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs when al Qaeda attacked American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: "What troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on those embassies in 1998, when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department."

David Corn reports on just how wrong Collins is.

[Collins questioned] whether Rice was somehow partially responsible for security failures that led to hundreds of casualties in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania when she was assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Yet State Department reports undermine Collins' expanded line of attack. [...]

With this remark, Collins was suggesting that Rice had screwed the pooch in 1998. It's a powerful charge, suggesting Rice's supposed inaction may have played a role in the deaths of hundreds. But that's not what a State Department inquiry found.

Corn found that one of the ambassadors in Africa asked for greater security before the 1998 attack, and in that case, additional security was indeed provided.

And what did the State Department inquiry have to say about Rice? Nothing. She had no role in making decisions about security or embassy operations.

In other words, Collins' superficial criticisms rely on child-like reasoning: 14 years ago, Rice was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs; two U.S. embassies were attacked in Africa; ergo, there's something wrong with Rice's record.

This makes about as much sense as condemning Rice for appearing on a Sunday show -- which as it turns out, is the other deeply ridiculous talking point Collins is pushing. All things considered, it looks like the senator owes the ambassador an apology.