“I’m not so sure she’s the strongest advocate,” added Graham. “I think she’s more of a political operative than she is anything else when it comes to Benghazi.”
And, he said, “I don’t think we’re doing very well in the U.N., quite frankly.” He added, “China and Russia’s been walking all over us.”
Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is expected to become the top Republican on the Armed Services panel, said Wednesday that he did not think Rice would be a “fitting replacement” for Clinton.
“During her time as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Rice has been the Obama administration’s point person in pursuing liberal causes that threaten U.S. sovereignty,” Inhofe said in a written statement.
Another Republican senator, speaking on background because he has yet to come out against Rice publicly, recently worried that Rice was too much of an Obama “sycophant.”
“Anybody who’s been around Susan Rice knows she’s drank every drop of Kool-Aid about the Obama administration,” the senator said.
Democrats, however, have swiftly come to Rice’s defense, saying Republicans are blowing Rice’s comments on Benghazi out of proportion.
“I understand [McCain’s] position, but I really think it’s unfortunate that statements that she made based on intelligence reports after the Benghazi incident are now being used to, unfortunately, criticize a person who has given a major part of her life to foreign policy with great success,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said Wednesday.
“If the president should nominate her, I don’t believe that should be any reason to stop her. Sure, ask the hard questions — where did you get that information and why did you say this — but to disqualify her based on a ‘Meet the Press’ appearance,” Durbin said. “I mean, to me, it goes way too far.”
Senate Armed Services chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., also voiced support for Rice on Wednesday.
“I think she’s qualified to be secretary of State,” Levin said.
Levin said he is unhappy that people had already reached conclusions about her without hearing from her on the Benghazi attack. But he added it was too early to know if she could win confirmation.
Niels Lesniewski and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this story.