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Bolton's warning to GOP: Pres. Obama thinks you'll fold on Susan Rice, don't give him a victory he doesn't deserve

Amb. Susan Rice's meeting with GOP lawmakers sparked more questions than answers


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 27, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Did it backfire?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H.: I'm more troubled today knowing, having met with the acting director of the CIA and Ambassador Rice because it's certainly clear from the beginning that they knew that those with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attack on the embassy.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: I specifically asked her whether at any point prior to going on those Sunday morning television shows, she was briefed or urged to say certain things by anybody in the White House related to the campaign or political operations. She said no, she was not given messaging points at all by the White House prior to her appearance on those Sunday morning shows.

MCCAIN: It is clear the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video. It was not. And there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I'm more concerned now than I was before that the 16th September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice I think does not do justice to the reality at the time, and in hindsight, clearly was completely wrong.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are no unanswered questions about Ambassador Rice's appearance on Sunday shows, the talking points that she used for those appearances that were provided by the intelligence community. Those questions have been answered.

AYOTTE: When you have a position where you're ambassador to the United Nations, you go well beyond unclassified talking points in your daily preparation and responsibility for that job, and that's troubling to me, as well.

GRAHAM: All I can tell you, that the concerns I have are greater today than they were before, and we're not even close to getting the basic answers.


VAN SUSTEREN: So did we find out anything from today's meeting? Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton joins us. Good evening, sir. And your thoughts about today's meeting with Ambassador Rice on Capitol Hill.

JOHN BOLTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, from Susan Rice's point of view, this meeting was obviously a disaster, an opportunity to try and draw the sting out of the opposition that had been expressed by Senator McCain and the others obviously went in the opposite direction. When you have all three of the senators who participated in the meeting coming out after and saying they have more questions now than they did before, this was a bad meeting. No doubt about it.

And I think part of the problem here is the -- is the continued focus by the White House, by Susan Rice, by people looking at it on these so- called talking points that somebody provided to her.

I'll just put it this way, based on my own experience in government. Nobody who's truly competent reads talking points for any purpose. If you're good enough to be a senior American official, you ought to be able to use your own words. I'm not saying you make up policy. You obviously follow policy as set by the president. But the notion that you can be a cabinet-level official and be given talking points that you simply parrot without further question is mind-boggling to me!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's sort of interesting. Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, issued a statement tonight, and he said that there were personal attacks against Ambassador Rice. He said a number of things. I posted it on Gretawire. But he also said she has done nothing wrong.

And here's what I don't get. It -- I don't -- I mean, no one's said she did anything wrong. They -- I mean, at least I understand it, they're saying is that that she simply didn't do her job, which would be to ask simple questions instead of just take -- as you say, parrot, but instead, she's like a robot.

So is Jay Carney. He's been like a robot. They just repeat what they're told, and they don't exercise good judgment and ask questions, saying, How do you know that? Or why do you know that? Of if they did ask those questions and were lied to, we ought to know. But it's not -- it's not that they're bad people, it's just that they don't -- they don't have good judgment to ask questions!

BOLTON: Look, there are basically two ways you can perform in the government at a senior level. You can be the tool of your bureaucracy. And I've known secretaries of state I would basically put in that category. Or you can be a real policy leader. And that frequently means -- it inevitably means questioning and challenging what the bureaucracy serves up to you.

But I think if you -- if you don't perform that role, then you're not performing to the expectation of being a senior official in the government. That's why I say there are two basic philosophies of how you perform in government here. If you want to promote somebody who reads talking points, that's fine.

And let me say I believe the president should basically get his nominee for executive branch positions. But if that's what you want, that's the defense, is, I just read my talking points, that's the way she'll be as secretary of state, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then maybe we should just have written submissions and not have people go on television to explain these things.

BOLTON: Well, why have a secretary of state? Why not just have the Libya desk officer...

VAN SUSTEREN: Issue a paper...

BOLTON: ... run the policy?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I don't -- I don't -- I mean, to me it's that the first question that I would have asked, if someone were briefing me, is simply, How do you know that?

BOLTON: No. Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Of why do you know that. I mean...

BOLTON: When people...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, it's, like -- and especially in the face of something so bizarre, when it was so obvious, I think -- and I'm not just trying to -- and not just with 20/20 hindsight. I think most people thought it was a terrorist attack at first. So if I were the one being briefed and someone told me it was a video and it was a protest, I would say, Whoa. How do you know that? It didn't look that way to me. I would have said, How do you know that?

BOLTON: Well, I think it's a question whether the -- what's served up to you by the bureaucracy you take as the alpha and the omega or whether it's the beginning of the discussion. For me, I certainly got into my share of trouble with the bureaucracy. It was the beginning of the conversation, it was not the end of the conversation.

But There's still a lot of other questions here. I still want to know why didn't Hillary Clinton go on those five morning talk shows? That question has still not been answered. And her taking responsibility for what happened in Benghazi on the day of the last presidential debate, in my opinion, doesn't answer the question. Where was Hillary Clinton on September the 16th?

VAN SUSTEREN: Obviously, we're all sort of playing the game, who's going to be the next secretary of state to replace Secretary Clinton. Many think that it's going to be Ambassador Rice, but Senator John Kerry had sort of been the thought for many, many months until recently.

Your thoughts on Senator John Kerry being the secretary of state, as opposed to Ambassador Rice, as a nominee? As a nominee.

BOLTON: Well, I'm always in favor of U.S. ambassadors to the U.N. making something of themselves when they -- when they finish their job at the U.N. You know, if the president wants to have a fight that he thinks he can win, he can certainly get a fight with Susan Rice.

And let's be crass about this. I think the president thinks he's on a roll. I think he thinks Republicans are going to fold like a cheap suit on taxes and entitlements. And I think, ultimately, he thinks they'll fold on Susan Rice, too. So my guess is he nominates her, he thinks he's going to win, and he emerges stronger.

So I'll just say this. If Republicans want to take a position on Susan Rice, they better be prepared to think through the implications and not hand the president a victory that he doesn't deserve.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.