by Jim Nintzel
Sen. John McCain has spent the last two days demanding an investigation into the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Yesterday, at the same time he was at a press conference demanding that the Obama administration release more information about the attack, he was skipping a classified briefing on the matter.
McCain blew his lid today when he was confronted by a CNN reporter:
When CNN approached McCain in a Capitol hallway Thursday morning, the senator refused to comment about why he missed the briefing, which was conducted by top diplomatic, military and counter-terrorism officials. Instead, McCain got testy when pressed to say why he wasn't there.
"I have no comment about my schedule and I'm not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media," McCain said.
Asked why he wouldn't comment, McCain grew agitated: "Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”
When CNN noted that McCain had missed a key meeting on a subject the senator has been intensely upset about, McCain said, "I'm upset that you keep badgering me."
In a good bit of analysis about whether McCain can block Susan Rice's nomination as Secretary of State, Slate's Dave Weigel puts McCain's push for the investigation—which drew an unusually angry response from Obama at yesterday's presser—into perspective:
Rubio's comments were interesting because this popular version of the "Rice comments" isn't true. On those Sunday shows, she said that extremists used a protest as a cover for their planned attack, not that the attack happened off the cuff. The key figure in spreading this lie about Rice was ... John McCain, who said that same Sunday that "most people don't bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to demonstrations."
McCain's obvious contempt has been noticed by the press and dismissed by Democrats. After McCain's presser, where he called for a select committee to investigate Benghazi, a reporter asked Sen. Harry Reid whether he could support such an investigation. "No," snapped Reid. Ironically, McCain's zealousness and insistence that Democrats have lied and covered up facts about the death of Americans might be an impediment to an anti-Rice campaign. What, exactly, do Democrats gain if they punt Rice? If she's passed over, it looks like Republicans scared the re-elected president out of a choice he wanted to make. And Republicans will grill her over Benghazi anyway.
Eight years ago, Democrats tried a version of this play with Condoleezza Rice. She'd been the president's national security adviser during a period of stunning intelligence failures. Liberals blanched at the idea of promoting her and wanted to make George W. Bush suffer for it. But in the end, 30 Democrats voted to confirm the Original Rice. Among them: Joe Biden and Barack Obama. They were spared the scorn of a Republican senator who endorsed Rice and accused her opponents of being sore losers.
"I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion," McCain said. "I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election."