Wednesday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed President Barack Obama’s first press conference since the election and the “line in the sand” he drew regarding the possible nomination of Ambassador Susan Rice to the position of Secretary of State.
Maddow opened the segment by discussing other first second-term press conferences by Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and how each of the previous two-term presidents took that opportunity to set an agenda forth for their next term.
At Wednesday’s press conference, the president deflected all questions about who he would nominate to cabinet positions, but did take a moment to respond to statements by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) regarding Rice’s possible nomination.
“Let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work,” said the president. “If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”
Obama went on to say that there is already an investigation underway as to what happened in Benghazi that the administration is cooperating with. “But when they go after the U.N. ambassador,” he said, “apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”
Calling his statements “the closest thing to temper we see from this calm, collected president,” Maddow said that the only other time we’ve seen Obama this visibly angry and annoyed was during the presidential debates, right before former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) made his now-infamous flub about whether or not Obama called the raid on the consulate in Benghazi a terrorist act or an act of terrorism.
“What happened right before that at that debate was President Obama defending Ambassador Rice and Hillary Clinton directly and by their titles and condemning as ‘offensive’ Mitt Romney trying to say that that attack was being covered up,” Maddow said. “Or that the country was being misled about it. That was what we saw today on full blast.”
She went on to discuss how some in Washington believe that the choice of Rice as Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton would be a fighting move by the president, pushing forward an embattled figure in the midst of a scandal investigation. Maddow, however, posited that whatever legitimate questions there are about what happened in Benghazi, the president is clearly confident in Rice and feels that the conservative media and Sen. McCain’s attacks on her are unwarranted and groundless.
It would not be “picking a fight” to nominate Rice as Secretary of State, said Maddow, “It would more be drawing a line in the sand, saying ‘Starting now, starting day one of this second term, which I just won in a big national election that you lost. Starting now we will fight about policy, we will fight about differences of opinion, we will fight about priorities, but we will not have any more fights based on nonsense that the right made up to entertain itself.’”
“‘If we have a real beef, we’ll fight it out,’” she continued, “‘but the John McCain crusade against Susan Rice? That made-up stuff will no longer be entertained at the level of national policy.’”
She then welcomed Bill Burton of pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA to discuss whether there has been a paradigm shift, whether the birth certificate controversy will no longer serve as the template for national discussions.
“The president wants to have grown-up discussions about big issues facing the country,” said Burton. “I think that if you look at how he took this issue on, he said, ‘Let’s discuss the facts. Let’s take a hard look at what happened here,’” but that to get distracted by “nonsense” is something that president does not intend to do.
“And for John McCain to be the tip of the spear on this one,” he scoffed. “The man who brought us Sarah Palin? And he’s going to talk about someone’s qualifications on national security? I don’t think that any of us need to have that either.”
Watch the clip, embedded via MSNBC, below: