By Justin Sink and Julian Pecquet
06/05/13 08:18 PM ET
President Obama on Wednesday named Susan Rice — the public face of the Benghazi controversy — as his national security adviser.
The decision elevates the U.N. ambassador to the most powerful foreign relations role in the White House, ensuring Rice will have the president’s ear on top issues.
“I am absolutely thrilled she’ll be back at my side, leading my national security team in my second term,” Obama said in a Rose Garden ceremony.
The selection is a direct rebuke to Republican critics who criticized Rice’s public comments in the days after last year’s attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, and reflected growing White House confidence it has successfully absorbed the GOP’s punches on Benghazi even as it deals with swirling controversies over the IRS’s targeting of political groups and the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, which Rice, relying on administration talking points, blamed on an anti-Islam film.
Obama is “not at all” concerned Rice’s appointment would further inflame the GOP on Benghazi, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
He added that there had been “ample demonstration” that Rice’s controversial comments were based on faulty intelligence assessments and that it would be “irresponsible” to suggest otherwise.
Rice’s selection is “another data point that GOP Benghazi attacks on Rice were baseless and debunked,” former White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor tweeted.
In a subsequent interview, Vietor said her appointment was “further vindication … that the attacks on her have been baseless, petty and political.”
“This is about him wanting the best team in place to advise him on and execute his foreign policy,” Vietor said. “It’s not about a petty right-wing hobbyhorse.”
Obama did not even mention Benghazi during the Rose Garden ceremony announcing Rice’s selection. He declared himself “extraordinarily proud” of her tenure at the United Nations.
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