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McCain: 'I would be hard-pressed' to support Rice for secretary of State

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he "would be hard-pressed" to support U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice if President Obama appoints her to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of State.

McCain made the comment during an interview with Fox News hours after he met with Rice and Acting CIA Director Michael Morell on Capitol Hill. The Arizona lawmaker said he was disappointed with the meeting, characterizing some of Rice's answers as "hard to understand."

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Republicans have blasted Rice over comments she made in the days after the September terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead. Rice initially suggested that the violence could have been linked to protests against an anti-Islam YouTube video, but the White House later said that the attack was a planned terrorist assault.

Rice admitted in a statement Tuesday that "there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi."

That's led many Republicans to suggest the White House intentionally withheld details about the attack for political gain ahead of the presidential election, and threaten to block a potential Rice nomination to head the State Department. On Tuesday, McCain said her comments "clearly ... contradicted the statement that she made."

"I still don't understand why anyone who believes when you come with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades how that could possibly be viewed as a spontaneous demonstration," McCain said. "There are a lot of layers to this."

McCain went on to chide Obama, comparing the amount of information available about the Benghazi attacks to the successful operation that led to the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

"We knew in hours of all the details when we got bin Laden, they're making a movie out of it and [here] we are 10 weeks later and finally our ambassador to the United Nations who appeared on every national Sunday show is now saying that she gave false information concerning how this tragedy happened as far as the spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video," McCain said.

On Tuesday, Rice stressed that "neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved."

But Republican lawmakers, including McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), have said Rice should have known from confidential materials she had access to that linking the attack to a YouTube video was misleading.

"That, of course, was a misleading impression to the American people about what happened at the consulate," Ayotte told Fox News earlier in the day. "Obviously, the American people would have taken a very different impression had the information about individuals with ties to al Qaeda been involved in the attack been presented from the beginning."

McCain said he would be much more amenable to considering Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as a potential secretary of State candidate. Kerry, like Rice, has been widely rumored as among the finalists for the job.

"John Kerry came a whisker of being president of the United States, and that's working in his favor," McCain said. "But I would love to hear him make the case. I don't have anything in his background like this tragedy in Benghazi that would make me really want to carefully examine the whole situation."

But McCain said Kerry "had been very careful" not to openly lobby for the job.

The president said in a press conference earlier this month that he had not yet decided who to appoint to the job, but viewed Rice as eminently qualified.

"When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me," Obama said. "And should I choose — if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity — the State Department, then I will nominate her."