For the second time in a week, conservative Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is breaking with his party on a hot button issue.
Last Tuesday, Cole made headlines for disagreeing with House Speaker John Boehner and advising his fellow Republicans to accept President Barack Obama’s offer to immediately extend tax cuts on incomes under $250,000, while negotiating a broader deal involving tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
During a Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s This Week, Cole offered his advice on the other issue that has animated Republicans in the weeks since the election: U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s response to the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, and her potential nomination as Secretary of State.
When Dan Senor — the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority during the Iraq War, and the chief foreign policy advisor to Mitt Romney — suggested investigating “whether or not Susan Rice should be blamed” for the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks, Cole reminded Senor of the Bush administration’s false claims that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
“We saw President Bush out front defending something wasn’t true too,” Cole noted. “Maybe we should ask those guys some questions too.”
Despite his rebuke of Senor, Cole stopped short of endorsing Rice’s potential nomination. “You want a Secretary of State who can unite you, not divide you,” Cole said, adding “I’m not convinced that Ambassador Rice will be able to.”
Video of the exchange is below, via The Raw Story
In both cases, Cole is not adopting the Democratic position; he opposes raising tax rates for the wealthy, and he does not appear to support Rice (although he did not say whether or not he would vote to confirm her if he were in the Senate.) Instead, Cole seems to be trying to divert his party from embracing hopeless political positions. Just as Cole correctly identified that the White House has all of the leverage in the tax cut debate, so too does he seem to realize that a public battle over Rice could lead to some very uncomfortable questions about the Bush administration’s record — a history that the Republican Party would rather stay buried.