Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is refusing to join the criticism of the Obama administration for its response to the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans last month, saying Americans should reserve judgment until official investigations have time to piece together the truth.
Rice, who has been campaigning for former Gov. Mitt Romney, echoed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s comment that the “fog of war” made it hard to grasp what happened when dozens of armed militants stormed the U.S. diplomatic mission and a nearby annex in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.
“We don’t have all the pieces and I think it’s easy to try and jump to conclusions about what might have happened here,” she told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren in an interview Wednesday. “It’s probably better to let the relevant bodies do their work.”
In addition to an FBI effort to identify and track down the killers, the State Department has launched a blue-ribbon panel, headed by veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering, to investigate the attack. The House oversight committee has held a public hearing, and the Senate intelligence committee announced Thursday it would hold hearings next month.
A long list of former Republican officials have accused the Obama administration of trying to conceal details of the attacks, including former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who told Fox just before Rice’s appearance that “the coverup is palpable.”
But Rice, who was Clinton’s immediate predecessor as America’s top diplomat, sounded sympathetic to the administration’s argument that diplomats in turbulent regions always face a degree of risk.
“You can’t simply keep your diplomats in a bunker,” she said. “They have to get out and do their work.”
She said the State Department had procedures in place to handle security crises, and that Congress and the State Department panel will examine if the appropriate rules were followed given the known threats in Benghazi. “I have no reason to believe they weren’t followed,” she added.
Rice’s predecessor, Colin Powell, on Thursday endorsed President Obama for a second term. Powell also has refrained from criticizing the administration for the Benghazi attacks.
Rice, one of George Bush’s closest confidantes during his two terms in the White House, has sought to remake her political identity since Obama came to office.
She told Fox that she is “not always in agreement with everything that’s written in the Republican platform about social issues.”
But she disagreed with Democrats’ claims that the GOP ticket is conducting a “war on women,” saying the Republican candidates “are going to be reasonable … and are going to take into account the views of those with whom they don’t agree.
[For the Record, 10:57 a.m. PDT Oct. 25: An earlier online version of this post incorrectly spelled the last name of Rudolph Giuliani as Guiliani.]