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              FILE - This June 7, 2012 file photo shows U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice listening during a news conference at the UN. Republican senators

Obama’s defense of ambassador Susan Rice lures GOP fire

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is using his female African-American U.N. ambassador as a shield to deflect growing criticism of his Arab-region strategy — and almost 100 House Republicans have now aimed a dart at his shield.

On Monday, 97 House Republicans sent a letter to the White House announcing they would oppose U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s nomination to head the State Department.

“Ambassador Rice is widely viewed to have either willfully or incompetently misled the American public on the [Sept. 11] Benghazi matter. … We believe that making her the face of the U.S. foreign policy … would greatly undermine your desire to improve U.S. relations with the world,” said the letter, which was signed by South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and 95 other GOP legislators.

The letter will have little direct impact, because the Democratic-led Senate decides to accept or reject White House nominations, not the House. (RELATED VIDEO — Krauthammer: Obama’s attempt to defend Rice an embarrassing display of chivalry)

Still, the Republican-led House has the power to investigate White House officials.

That gives them the leading role in discovering which officials — likely including Rice — took a leading role in the White House’s pre-election effort to write intelligence reports to cover up al-Qaida’s role in the successful Sept. 11 jihadi attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

But by pushing Rice forward, Obama has created a racial and sexual diversion in the debate over his Arab strategy.

Obama’s policy is based on the claim that a U.S. outreach to popular Islamic parties would undermine the Arab jihadi groups.

However, the Islamist parties have deep ideological, religious and personal ties to the jihadi groups, and both continue to aid each other.

For example, the Sept. 11 jihadi attack on the weakly guarded and weakly fortified U.S diplomatic facility and CIA annex in Benghazi prompted Obama to close both facilities. The decision left Benghazi-based Islamist parties with more room to organize and supplant the weak Libya government.

After the attack, White House officials — led by Obama and Rice — tried to blame the attack on an Arab protest of a little-known YouTube video that is critical of Islam. The administration’s story changed mid-September.

GOP legislators are eager to investigate the situation, but Obama’s use of Rice has already prompted some of his Democratic allies in Congress and outside to declare that the dispute is over Rice, not Obama’s policy. (RELATED VIDEO: MSNBC vice president says conservatives are attacking Rice because she’s black)

“The GOP hit on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the Benghazi attack is not about her alleged bungling, untruthfulness, or lack of accomplishment,” claimed Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an African-American activist and writer. “It’s yet another GOP ploy to weaken, besmirch, and taint President Obama,” he wrote in The Huffington Post.

Hutchinson is an ally of Al Sharpton.

Obama initiated the Rice-first shield Nov. 14, by suddenly denouncing her critics at a White House press conference.

“For them to go after the U.N. Ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous,” he declared.

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