Beinart here gets to the real question about Susan Rice’s suitability to lead American diplomacy, and it has nothing to do with what John McCain is badgering her about.
Between the fall of 2002 and the spring of 2003, NPR’s Tavis Smiley interviewed Rice four times about the Bush administration’s looming war with Iraq. I’ve spent the better part of an afternoon listening to those interviews and I still can’t tell whether Susan Rice supported the war or opposed it. That’s the real scandal, and it says a lot more about Susan Rice, and the entire Democratic foreign-policy class, than anything that happened in Benghazi.
Beinart goes on to note that the entire “serious” part of the Democratic establishment supported the rush to invade Iraq, including the journalists and editorial pages and think tankers, all the while labeling those opposed to the war as, at best, naive. (This group of war cheerleaders would include, needless to say — or at least Beinart doesn’t mention it — the Peter Beinart-edited New Republic, which mocked the emergence of a new conservative journal opposed to the war.)
But Beinart, in an altogether commendable evolution, has wrestled seriously with and done much to atone for his errors. And he is on to something about Rice, in fact the key point. What exactly is her world view? What kind of leadership can we expect from someone unable or unwilling even to state her position when the United States faced the most decisive fork in the road since, at least, the Vietnam war. Rice is, by this account, simply a careerist and establishment cipher, hardly someone who could provide the sort of decisive break with neoconservativism promised, and thus far undelivered, by the Obama presidency.