President Obama gave himself some wiggle room on the issue of whom he’ll nominate to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, saying that he will not appear weak if he chooses not to appoint Susan Rice.

“No,” Obama told Bloomberg TV when asked if he would appear to be caving in the face of Republican opposition to Rice. “I don’t really spend a lot of time on what folks say on cable news programs attacking highly-qualified personnel like Susan Rice.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., attacked Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, for describing the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi as a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam Youtube video rather than acknowledging that it was an organized assault by a group tied to Al Qaeda carried out on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

“Why did our ambassador to the United Nations, in interviews five days after the attack, also try to blame [the attack] on the hateful video when it was clear from the earliest hours of the attack that it was a sophisticated offensive and that there was no protest?”McCain said on November 14.

Obama challenged McCain later that day. “She gave her best understanding of the best intelligence that had been provided to him,” he said in defense of Rice. “They should go after me, and I’m happy to have that discussion. But for them to go after the UN ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi . . . to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”