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McCain says Susan Rice ‘not qualified’ for State, would block nomination

"She's not qualified," said McCain on CBS "This Morning," citing Rice's handling of the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead.  

"Anyone who goes on national television in defiance of the facts five days later — we're all responsible for what we say and what we do. I'm responsible to my voters. She is responsible to the Senate of the United States. We have our responsibilities for advice and consent," he added.

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Rice has been widely seen as an administration favorite for the top diplomat position, but Republican critics have lashed out at the ambassador for initially blaming the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack on protests over an anti-Islam video. Rice became the public face of the White House following the violence in Benghazi, appearing on several Sunday talk shows, where she said the deaths resulted from a spontaneous protest. The White House later said new intelligence showed it was a planned attack. 

McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with other Republican senators said Tuesday that they would oppose Rice's nomination.

When pressed on whether Secretary of State Clinton or former CIA Director David Petraeus also deserved scrutiny for the administration's explanation of Benghazi, McCain said, "Absolutely.

"The secretary of State is clearly involved in this and that's, again, that's why we need a select committee to get to the bottom of all of this," he said.

The Arizona senator and former Republican presidential candidate said that Rice is responsible for the information she provided to the public, despite the need to review other agencies and people involved in the situation.

"First of all, the casual observer knew that … there was no demonstration, so you could have known that to start with. Second of all, you should look into it and there was additional information three days later. If you're going to tell the American people something, you better make damn sure that it's true," McCain said. 

White House spokesman Jay Carney defended Rice’s statements on Benghazi during Tuesday’s briefing, without commenting on whether she was in the running for the Cabinet post.

“I can tell you that the president believes that Ambassador Rice has done an excellent job and is grateful for her service,” Carney said. “He believes that everyone here working for him has been transparent … in the way that we’ve tried to answer questions about what happened in Benghazi.”

Sens. McCain, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) are holding a press conference later Wednesday morning to address the attacks in Benghazi.

— Julian Pecquet contributed.

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