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Smear campaign against Rice broadens, intensifies

The only meaningful complaint raised by Republicans against Susan Rice is that she shared the collective judgment on the Benghazi attack on Sunday shows. It gives new meaning to the phrase "blame the messenger" -- Rice didn't write the CIA talking points, she simply told the public what they said, just as she was asked to do.

And yet, the Republican campaign against her appears to be intensifying. The latest criticism comes by way of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who, next year, will ostensibly be the Senate's only GOP moderate.

Rice paid Collins a courtesy visit this morning, and the Maine Republican later told reporters that Rice served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs when al Qaeda attacked American embassies in Kenya and Somalia: "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."

This is pretty twisted -- to suggest the assistant secretary of state for African affairs is responsible for security decisions at every U.S. diplomatic outpost in an enormous continent is absurd, even by the standards of congressional Republicans -- but as the smear campaign against Rice unfolds, it's also quickly becoming the norm.

Collins added that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) "would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues," thus boosting the Republican Party's partisan goals of shrinking the Democratic caucus.

In the meantime, GOP antics are making Democrats getting angrier by the day.

Democrats, though, tell NBC they're ready and willing to fight for Rice and believe they could overcome those holds. Anyone who thinks that John McCain, Ayotte, and Graham's caustic reaction to their meeting with Rice yesterday gives Democrats any pause on Rice's nomination, should think again, according to a Democratic Senate aide.

"People are happy to fight for her," the aide said, adding, "This is getting people's back up. The general sense of the mood is this is ridiculous. She's obviously qualified." The aide also questioned whether Republicans besides McCain, Graham, and Ayotte would think this is a "smart fight to pick" given Rice's qualifications and that this would mean a "high-profile fight with a qualified African-American woman." As to the threat of holds from Ayotte and Graham, the aide said that if Rice is nominated and presents well at her confirmation hearing, there's a "good chance cooler heads prevail" and there would be more than enough votes to confirm her.