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Collins' silly Sunday-show standard

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If Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wants to be considered the last moderate Republican standing, she's going to have to drop this outrageous campaign against Susan Rice. Consider this latest complaint (via Kevin Drum).

Collins told reporters she was "troubled" that Rice had "decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign" by appearing on five political talk shows to present the administration's position.

So, let me get this straight. The week of a terrorist attack against a U.S. consulate, the Obama administration dispatched a U.S. ambassador with foreign policy experience to the Sunday shows to update the public and the media on what transpired, based on the best available information. This, according to Susan Collins, is "troubling" because it made Rice "political."

Is there something in the water in the Republican cloakroom?

Administration officials go on Sunday shows all the time, this has been the case for decades, and I can't recall any policymaker from either party ever complaining about the practice before. Indeed, Collins' whining is arguably dumber than John McCain's -- McCain complains about what Rice said on the Sunday shows; Collins is complaining that Rice agreed to appear on the Sunday shows in the first place.

Funny, in 2004, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice appeared on a Sunday show shortly before a presidential election and repeated campaign talking points, praising George W. Bush as "a strong leader" after a debate performance. A few months later, Rice was nominated as Secretary of State, drawing praise from Susan Collins. If she found it "troubling" that Rice was being "political," Collins forgot to mention it.

Indeed, the Rice-to-Rice comparison is especially problematic for Collins, because it makes her indictment yesterday seem that much more ridiculous.

Yesterday, the Maine Republican complained, for example, that Susan Rice, in her capacity as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Clinton administration, failed to appreciate the "threat assessment" surrounding two U.S. embassies attacked by al Qaeda in 1998.

Zach Roth's response rings true.

[A] far more devastating terrorist attack occurred three years later, when a different Rice, Condoleezza, served as National Security Adviser to President Bush. Indeed, in August 2001, Bush and Condoleezza Rice received a CIA memo headlined: "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S." If ever a government official "had to be aware of the general threat assessment," it was Condoleezza Rice then.

Collins didn't think so, though. It's easy to "go back now and pick out a clue here and a tidbit there ... but we have to keep in mind the environment," Collins said when the memo surfaced in 2004. "We have to keep in mind the volume of reporting that the president and his advisers are dealing with each and every day."

The following year, Collins voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, praising her "professional experience and personal integrity."

Condoleezza Rice failed to take the al Qaeda threat seriously before 9/11, made demonstrably false claims about Iraq before the launch of a disastrous war, and routinely played the role of a partisan activist, despite serving in an NSA role that has traditionally been non-partisan. Susan Collins wasn't troubled by any of this when she voted to make Rice the Secretary of State.

Susan Rice appeared on a Sunday show and repeated the best available information about an attack on a U.S. consulate. Susan Rice is so "troubled" by this, she's going along with a coordinated-but-stupid smear campaign.

The farce continues.

Postscript: Just to clarify something, the current Secretary of State was a politician (senator and presidential candidate). John Kerry is a politician (senator and presidential candidate). For Collins to argue that Rice's "political" qualities make her a poor choice for the State Department is pure nonsense.