CNN — Someone should lose their job in the wake of the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
But that someone isn't Ambassador Susan Rice, the U.S. delegate to the United Nations who two top Republicans said Wednesday should be denied a promotion, if offered, as much of the GOP furor about the U.S. government's response focuses on her.
"The person who decided to have no Marines guarding the ambassador should be fired, just plain and simple," he said, referring to Ambassador Chris Stevens, the U.S. delegate to Libya who died in the September 11 attack. "I don't think that's Susan Rice. I think we get involved with Ambassador Rice and we're getting off subject."
Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, two top Republicans, said earlier in the day they would use parliamentary means to hold up her nomination for the top State Department post, should President Barack Obama nominate her. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she does not want to serve through Obama's second term but would stay in office until a replacement is confirmed.
Rice is at the center of the storm because she appeared on television shows several days after Benghazi attack and said it involved a "spontaneous" demonstration related to an anti-Muslim video.
Senior administration officials later said Rice was speaking from talking points prepared for official use and the word "spontaneous" was a poor choice to describe what is now understood to have been a terrorist attack.
But Republicans contend the administration was slow to acknowledge the attack was terrorism.
"The reason I don't trust her is that I think she knew better, and if she didn't' know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America," said Graham.
Obama stood by his ambassador at a White House news conference a few hours later.
"If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after someone they should go after me," Obama said. "When they go after the U.N. ambassador apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me."
On CNN, Paul said fault lies at the hands of someone who made a decision likely long before the attack took place on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
"I think really the more important question isn't really about whether it was caused by terrorism or whether it was caused by a movie," he said. "Obviously it was terrorism, but I think the more important question is why were there no Marines guarding our ambassador. Who made the decision -- not an immediate... decision, but a month-long desk decision to send an ambassador into a war-torn country without any uniformed Marines."
Had a different decision been made, Stevens and the three others who died -- including two Marines working as contractors for the CIA -- may have survived had more robust security been in place.
"If there had been two Marines with automatic weapons the ambassador might have gotten out alive," he said. "If there had been ten Marines, I'd say they'd have had a really fighting chance to get out alive and I think someone made a bad decision. It doesn't make them a bad person, it just makes them someone who shouldn't be in charge of making that decision for any other ambassador."
Paul said he does not want to "pre-judge" any nomination for the secretary of state post Obama might make, because "President Obama does get to choose who he'd wish" for the job.
"I have supported a lot of President Obama's nominees, but I am concerned about the movie with Senator Graham," he said, "so I think there have to be some questions answered before any of us make decision on this."
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who with Graham and Lindsey has argued a special congressional committee is necessary to investigate Libya, appeared to side closer with Paul on the matter of Rice and a potential Senate confirmation.
"I have serious concerns about where we are right now and trusting what she has to say, but I'm willing to listen to what she has to say," Ayotte said.
-- CNN's Dana Davidsen contributed to this report
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By Gregory Wallace