NOW with Alex Wagner | November 21, 2012
>>> while hillary clinton navigates the complex politics on the ground in gaza, president obama 's top diplomat at the u.n. is facing angry politics in washington . susan rice , the president's u.n. ambassador and a leading candidate to replace clinton at the state department , has been subject to withering and sometimes outlandish attacks from a wide range of republicans . senators john mccain and lindsey graham , two foreign policy leaders have slammed rice for her initial comments about the source of the libya attacks with mccain threatening to filibuster if he's nominated. many other republicans have joined in. 97 members of the house sent the president a letter monday opposing rice. now president obama is not backing down. the white house has confirmed it's still considering promoting rice and last week the president said if mccain and graham want to go after someone, they should go after him. rice was not exactly a household name during obama's first term. but all this heat from the political players is drawing some media fire . "the new york times" maureen dowd has knocked rice as an unsavvy washington player. while the "times" editorial page came out with an endorsing of the ambassador announcing it's time to leave rice alone. jonathan capehart one of the interesting things about this debate there's a lot of talk about what susan rice has done, specifically about libya , and then there's sort of this vague idea that republicans can stop the president no matter what. take a look at something, we talked about 97 republicans in the house oppose rice. ten of them won't even make it to january when we probably have a vote in the second term. but when you look at the people who have a vote under the constitution on these nominees, you only have six republicans who actually are on record saying they would vote against the nomination and the number drops to three when you look at people who would filibuster it. my question to you, jonathan capehart, master of washington , is do the republicans actually have any leverage over this nomination process?
>> i would say yes, if the president hadn't given that full throated endorsement of ambassador rice by saying, you know, don't go after her, if you want to go after someone, come after me. however, having lindsey graham and senator mccain , i can't remember which one, saying that, you know, i'll just put a hold on the nomination, that's a pretty big thread.
>> what is a hold?
>> a hold is when -- basically, any senator can put a hold on a piece of legislation or a nomination, just because. they don't have to give a reason and usually the hold is secret. i mean that's the culture of the senate.
>> to me, it doesn't sound democratic.
>> i mean but it's the rules of the senate. so you got to play with the rules that you got. it looks like the president --
>> or change them.
>> or change them. good luck with that. but i think the president's willing to have this fight and with everything that's going on in the middle east , and around the world, quite frankly, be the united states can't afford to have the top of the foreign policy chain out of commission.
>> let me bring in p.j.
>> or empty is the word i was looking for.
>> you know a lot about this and these are colleagues, former colleagues of yours, but on the substance, where are we on these allegations against ambassador rice?
>> well, i know it will be a shock to your distinguished panel the politics are out in front of the facts. there is within the state department an accountability review board that is under way and it will kind of lay out, you know, what happened and who knew what when and actually try to, you know, to explain the most significant issue surrounding libya , which is the security questions over that particular diplomatic post. i'm surprised by john mccain 's, you know, stance. he said that, you know, because of her misstatements, she's actually not qualified to be secretary of state. well, john mccain voted for condoleezza rice in 2005 , who was, in fact, a very fine secretary of state, and, of course, you know, she had her own share of misleading statements about iraq in 2003 --
>> p.j., let me jump in there. that is sort of the weirdest part of this, is that someone's entire career is being boiled down to a media interview that occurred, you know, shortly after a crisis when they were dealing with what they knew. i want to look for a moment at ambassador rice's resume if you will. she has been at the u.n. now for the first term. she basically helped negotiate the agreements with several u.n. security council members to get a u.n. authorization for libya . that goes back from before some of this scuffling. she went to stanford. oxford. was senior director of african affairs at the national security council . u.s. assistant secretary of state for african affairs . worked at brookings. heather and ben, she worked for the obama campaign . so at a messaging level, i think i made my point whether people agree or not about why there may not be the votes to stop her. have the republicans achieved something here by putting her entire record to the side?
>> i mean, that's funny. the objection to susan rice , she's too blunt, too plain spoken, not a good diplomat. in her career has been the complaint about her. i mean, i think that it seems like the republican line is not holding on this. marco rubio and others came out of a briefing, a classified briefing last week, saying the question isn't really susan rice and looks like that came from the director of national swell intelligence office, the misstatements, but the question is the security of the embassy is what they want to dig her teeth into. i think she makes it.
>> i think this has been sort of a victory in terms of the media narrative for fox news. the house republicans letter was all about, you know, she doesn't have the appearance of credibility anymore. that's paraphrasing. all of that comes from the sort of relentless media attention before it ever came on to networks like this that started from fox news. it's sad when we see something as serious as what's going on with libya , with the sort of future of, you know, the u.n. and our place in the world, really be driven by what's just raw politics and ratings.
>> that goes back to the whole point about who has the power to advise and consent. there may be a dialog between talk radio , fox news and the house republicans , but the senate republicans are not exactly a bunch of quails. they tend to make their views known when they oppose obama nominees. that's why i mention elizabeth warren . whether it's responsibility or a political calculation about foreign policy and the issues you raised, they're not weighing in on this. p.j., i wish we had more time. thank you so much for joining us on an important news day. i wish you a thanksgiving that is productive and happy.
>> and back at you all.
>> thank you.
>>> who do you trust more on the fiscal cliff? ben bernanke or rush limbaugh . rush thinks he holds some cards in the looming negotiations. can congress cut out the middlemen, the drama and make a deal? we will discuss next on "now." look, if you