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Obama vigorously defends UN envoy Rice, calling criticisms 'outrageous'

Obama called Susan Rice's work at the UN 'exemplary' and said Sens. McCain and Graham, who threatened a filibuster to block her nomination to higher office, should instead 'go after me.'

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Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona (r.), joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina (c.) and Kelly Ayotte (R) of New Hampshire, says he will do all he can to block the nomination of United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton because of comments she made after the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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President Obama offered a spirited defense of his ambassador to the United Nations at a White House press conference Wednesday, saying Susan Rice’s work has been “exemplary” and challenging senators who are attacking her to instead “go after me.”

Ambassador Rice, who is thought to be at the top of Mr. Obama’s list of candidates to replace a departing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has become the focal point of Republican criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Rice used CIA-provided talking points when she went on national news shows five days after the deadly attack in Benghazi to describe it as a “spontaneous” event that grew out of outrage over an anti-Islam video.

Just before the president’s East Room press conference, his first since his reelection last week, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said they would support using a filibuster if necessary to block Rice if Obama nominates her to higher office.

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