Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, Wednesday echoed concerns of her more conservative Republican colleauges about the possibility of embattled United Nationa Ambassador Susan Rice being nominated secretary of state following her comments about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.
Collins and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., met with Rice behind closed doors Wednesday morning.
"I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go in the Sunday shows to present the administration position," Collins told reporters after a 95-minute session with Rice. "In addition, it is interesting to me that ambassador Rice emphasized in her presentation not that this was terrorist attack by al Qaida but rather it had begun with a protest, that we now know was non-existent."
Collins went on to say that she was "very troubled" that Rice was assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in 1998 when embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed. The senator said there are eerie similarities between the Benghazi and Tanzania and Kenya attacks in that diplomats at all three facilities repeatedly requested additional security but were turned down by the State Department.
"Ambassador Rice said (at) the beginning of our session that she felt the real issue here was the protection of our people and our facilities," Collins said. "And I agree. And that's why her actions and whether or not lessons were learned from the 1998 attacks on our embassies in Africa are important questions. And I have asked for additional information there."
Collins said it's premature for her to say whether or not she could support a Rice nomination to replace departing Sectretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama hasn't formally nominated Rice and White House officials have declined to say whether the president intends to choose Rice.
"I would need to have additional information before I could support her nomination," she said. "There are many different players in this. And there is much yet to be learned."
But Collins made it clear that she would prefer that Obama nominate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to the Foggy Bottom post over Rice.
"I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues," Collins said.