Well, well, well. This should make for an interesting confirmation hearing, no?
The State Department spokeswoman who earlier this month found herself in the middle of the controversy surrounding key revisions to the Benghazi talking points appears to be in line for a promotion.
The White House announced Thursday that President Barack Obama intends to nominate Victoria Nuland as assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation.
Nuland, who has served as the State Department spokesperson from 2011 until earlier this spring, came under fire from Obama administration critics last week after leaked e-mails revealed she raised concerns with the CIA-prepared talking points on the deadly terror attack last September 11.
Specifically, Nuland asked that references to al Qaeda and previous CIA warnings about threats posed to U.S. diplomats in Libya be scrubbed from the document that was used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on news talk shows to explain the administration’s understanding of events in Libya.
Even before Nuland makes it to a confirmation hearing, she’s going to have to prepare to answer questions on Capitol Hill. Nuland is one of 13 people that Issa plans to call in a House Oversight hearing on Benghazi as a follow-up to the hearing with three State Department whistleblowers, and Nuland will definitely be one of the star witnesses. Issa and the committee will want to know who prompted Nuland to press the CIA to remove all references to organized terrorism from the talking points given to Susan Rice after complaining that the draft didn’t meet the needs of State Department leadership:
Major revisions to the CIA memo were requested by Victoria Nuland, then-spokeswoman for the State Department, who said changes were needed to “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” The e-mails do not state what leaders she referred to.
That will certainly be one of the questions, yes. After hearing from Gregory Hicks, Mark Thompson, and Eric Nordstrom earlier this month, we can be sure there will be others as well.
This decision prompts to big questions: Why Nuland, and why now? The answer to the first question might be that the White House figured that Nuland’s career path spanning the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations would make her nomination “bipartisan.” Good luck with that argument after releasing that e-mail string. Telling the CIA to ixnay on the errorism-tay to protect her bosses isn’t exactly going to be a confidence-builder in her ability to act independently when it comes to reporting honestly and forthrightly to Congress after confirmation.
The “why now” question is even more puzzling. Until now, the Senate under Harry Reid’s control hasn’t seemed too keen on taking a closer look at Benghazi. Now that Nuland will have to testify at a confirmation hearing, all bets are off — and Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee will have a long opportunity to play T-ball with Nuland, putting her on the record in a manner that Issa will be able to use in his own investigation. If her testimony before the two panels differs in any way, Republicans will highlight it, and in a Senate floor vote, Republicans will use the platform to demand even more action from Reid and the Democrats to match Issa’s efforts in the House.
Does the White House really think that raising Nuland’s profile to a Senate confirmation level immediately after releasing those e-mails is a brilliant move? Are they thinking at all?