Susan Rice's Senate Opponents Voted for Resolution on Benghazi Protests

The Republicans who object to her claim that protests in Libya preceded four Americans' deaths approved a Senate measure that used similar wording.

Is voting for something in the Senate a less significant statement of beliefs than saying the same thing on a Sunday talk show?

That's the standard the troika of GOP senators leading the charge against U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is using today. Their comments come in the wake of revelations that they voted by acclimation to sign a measure in September asserting a similar account of the events in Benghazi on September 11 and 12 as laid out by Rice on the Sunday talk shows the weekend after the attack.

The issue might partly be due to bad wording in Senate Resolution 588, which stated in the process of honoring the four Americans who lost their lives in the attack in Libya that "the violence in Benghazi coincided with an attack on the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which was also swarmed by an angry mob of protesters on September 11, 2012."

That "also" suggests that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi was swarmed by a mob of protestors like the ones who breached the U.S. embassy in Cairo, rather than a mob of armed militants, some of whom had been inspired to action that evening by media coverage of the protests in Cairo, as has since been reported.

According to ABC News:

The Senate passed a resolution the day after the attack in Benghazi, on Sept. 12, S. Res. 551. The resolution was updated and passed again Sept. 22 to add the names of those who had died. The original resolution and the update were approved by "Unanimous Consent," meaning that all 100 senators were officially listed as sponsors or co-sponsors.

Neither resolution uses the words "terrorist" or "extremist" or "al-Qaeda." Both resolutions use the phrase "swarmed by an angry mob of protestors" to describe the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi.

Several of the resolution's co-sponsors -- including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. -- have criticized Susan Rice for using language similar to the Senate resolution in describing the attack days after it happened.

"This president and this administration has either been guilty of colossal incompetence or engaged in a cover-up, neither of which are acceptable to the American people," McCain said Nov. 14. "If someone carried a message to the American people that was totally and utterly false with no basis in fact, then that person also has to be held accountable as well."

The senators have targeted Rice's use of the word "mob" to describe the attack, based on the talking points given to her by the CIA, rather than to admit that it was terrorism...

Ayotte's office says the resolutions' language, which passed in the days after the attack, and that of Rice the Sunday after the attack are not comparable.

"A resolution honoring fallen Americans can't be compared to Ambassador Rice's Sunday show appearances, when she made misleading assertions that al-Qaeda had been 'decimated,' security at the consulate was 'substantial' and the attack was a 'spontaneous' reaction to a 'heinous and offensive video,'" Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone told ABC.

Sen. McCain's office called the comparison between the language of the resolution and Rice's words "pathetic."

"This is total nonsense," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in a statement to ABC News.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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