In a bold move that demonstrates his commitment to an inner circle of close advisers — even those caught up in controversies, President Obama plans to nominate Victoria Nuland to assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, the White House said Thursday.
Ms. Nuland is the State Department spokeswoman who, emails revealed last week, expressed deep concerns about the implications of early versions of the “talking points” being prepared for the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. at one point asking that references to al Qaeda and previous CIA warnings about threats in Libya be deleted from the document. She said members of Congress might use them to criticize the State Department for not providing beefed-up security at Benghazi, where U.S. Amb. J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
She also memorably argued that her “building leadership” still had issues with the talking points even after some changes, a reference some Republicans believe could implicate then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or other senior leaders.
U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used the heavily redacted talking points on Sunday morning news shows following the attack in an attempt to blame the events in Benghazi and the deaths of the four Americans on an anti-Islamic video made in the U.S.
Republicans argue the explanation was an attempt to play down the role of terrorists in the attacks because that might damage President Obama’s national security credentials and his claims that al Qaeda had been decimated with the presidential election less than two months away.
The nomination of Ms. Nuland, a career Foreign Service officer with previous European experience, requires Senate confirmation, giving conservative critics in Congress the opportunity to press her for more details about her role in the Benghazi talking points.
Democrats will undoubtedly point to other parts of Ms. Nuland’s resume as proof she wasn’t politically motivated. From 2003 to 2005, she served as principal deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Republicans Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have led the charge in questioning the Obama administration over its handling of Benghazi, made an effort Friday to extol Ms. Nuland’s foreign-service credentials, noting that she is respected on both sides of the aisle.
“Ambassador Victoria Nuland has a long and distinguished record of service to our nation in both Republican and Democrat administrations,” they said in a statement. “She is knowledgeable and well-versed on the major foreign policy issues as well as respected by foreign policy experts in both parties. We look forward to her upcoming confirmation hearings in the United States Senate.”