With the Republican witch hunt against Ambassador Susan Rice showing no signs of abating as they try to derail her possible nomination as Secretary of State, let's consider some additional context surrounding the attacks and examine how Charles Krauthammer has altered his view on the central issue.
This is from a Washington Post column he wrote in January 2005, expressing dismay that Democrats were raising doubts about Condoleezza Rice's qualifications to be Secretary of State, in the wake of her role in marketing the Iraq War [emphasis added]:
Mark Dayton of Minnesota accused her of lying in order to persuade the American people to go to war -- a charge that is not just false but that most Americans don't believe. Rice was not a generator of intelligence. She was a consumer -- of a highly defective product.
Note the very specific point Krauthammer made as he tried to minimize Rice's central role in the unpopular invasion. The columnist and Fox News talker stressed that Rice didn't generate the intelligence about Iraq, which turned out to be “high defective,” she merely consumed it.
And because she had merely consumed, and then marketed, bad intelligence about Iraq (“We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"), Condoleezza Rice wasn't really culpable, which according to Krauthammer meant Democrats were misguided in their criticism of her.
Of course, that conservative spin now seems entirely disingenuous given the fact that a legion of right-wing pundits, including most of the Fox News on-air staff, are waging a war against Susan Rice not for being a “generator” of defective intelligence about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, but for consuming it.
On November 14, appearing on Fox, Krauthammer expressed indignation over Rice's public comments about Benghazi:
It was clearly defensive and it was also a stonewall. I mean, after all, what she said was absolutely and completely misleading. Either inadvertently, in which case it's complete incompetence, or on purpose, in which case it's deception.
Meanwhile, On Fox & Friends this week, Brian Kilmeade demanded to know what kind of would-be Secretary of State simply relies on talking points given to her by the intelligence community?
Today, Rice's sin in the eyes of Krauthammer and Fox News is that she relayed what the intelligence community told her about Benghazi. For that, she's guilty of incompetence or being misleading, in the words of Krauthammer. But in 2005, Krauthammer stressed that Condoleezza Rice should not be held responsible for relaying what the intelligence community told her about Iraq because she didn't generate it.
It goes without saying that the sprawling Iraq War was a far more important, costly and deadly event than the “small firefight” that engulfed the Benghazi consulate, as national security writer Tom Rick's described it. And it goes without saying that as national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice had a much more direct and influential role in initiaiting the Iraq War than United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice had responding to the terrorist attack in Libya.
Her only public role was being selected as an administration point person and asked to appear on Sunday morning talk shows to relay intelligence talking points, or what she said was “the best information we have at present” about the cause of the attack.
Conservatives are trying desperately to make Rice a central player in the alleged Benghazi cover-up. But when Condoleezza Rice was named to be Secretary of State, Krauthammer portrayed her as a paid actor in the Iraq War production, simply mouthing the lines given to her. For Krauthammer that wasn't a bad thing. It just meant she wasn't responsible for anything that went wrong with regards to the Iraq War, or the pervasive misinformation campaign that led up to the invasion.
As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted this week, almost nothing that Rice's critics are alleging regarding the Benghazi controversy makes sense, and virtually all of the questions they are “asking” have been answered. When you add into the mix the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of conservatives who have literally inverted the standards they used for secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice in 2005, you begin to understand how hollow and tiresome this partisan production has become.