Susan Rice Bows Out from Secretary of State Consideration

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Luke Sharrett / The New York Times / Redux

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves the U.S. Senate after meeting separately with Senators Susan Collins and Bob Corker on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 28, 2012.

There’s a view that politics and national security should be oil and water–that some iron rule of Washington should make the two impossible to mix. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. Even so, Susan Rice’s removal of her name from consideration to be Barack Obama’s next Secretary of State is what happens when the fallout from a genuine national security disaster runs headlong into the electrified domestic politics of an election year.

It’s hard to know whether the United Nations Ambassador truly reached this conclusion on her own, or whether she accepted the White House’s view that, with the nation’s fiscal future in the balance, this is no time for an ugly confirmation fight with Republicans. But Rice was surely correct when she said, in a public letter to the president, that “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly” to the president’s priorities. “The tradeoff,” she added, “is simply not worth it to our country.”

(MORE: Obama: Attacks on Rice ‘Unfair and Misleading’)

Either way, Obama must see this as an unusually bitter political defeat. He is personally close to Rice, who led his 2008 campaign foreign policy team, and whom he had previously defended with a certain gusto. (“If [Republicans] want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” he growled last month.) Obama was also said to believe that a president is entitled to choose his foreign policy–a view many liberals invoked when they grudgingly confirmed another woman named Rice as Secretary of State seven years ago.

It’s hard to believe that Rice’s chief Republican opponents, who include Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, really think she was complicit in a political cover-up of the true nature of the September 11 attacks in Benghazi that claimed the life of four Americans. The ostensible case against Rice rested on the strange idea that, in several television appearances on September 15, she should not have repeated information vetted for public consumption by the intelligence community. This is a particularly odd complaint at a time when conservatives are up in arms over alleged national security leaks from this White House.

(MORE: Pros and Cons of Picking Susan Rice for Secretary of State)

The Republicans’ motives are impossible to know. But other theories for their intense opposition to Rice are at least as persuasive. One is that Rice’s chief tormenter, John McCain, carries both a personal disdain for her (Rice was a withering critic of McCain’s foreign policy in 2008) and a kinship with his fellow Vietnam War veteran, John Kerry, who is currently assumed to be a shoo-in for the job. Kerry’s nomination would also, perhaps not incidentally, give the recently-ousted GOP Senator Scott Brown a chance to reclaim his seat, reducing the Democrats’ Senate majority by one. Another is that Rice was a lightning rod for lingering Republican anger over the Benghazi tragedy in general. Although Rice’s statements, inaccurate as they were, were reasonable for the still-confused moment at which she made them, the White House’s public commentary, including some of Obama’s own statements, did take a curiously long and meandering path to the truth at a time when Mitt Romney was trying to use Benghazi as a battering ram against Obama’s record on terrorism. It might not have been “the biggest cover up in history”; it might not have been a cover-up at all. (There’s no evidence that it was.)

But many Republicans remain convinced that, in the heat of a campaign, politics influenced the White House’s response and have not gotten over it. “When it comes to Benghazi I am determined to find out what happened — before, during and after the attack,” Graham said in a statement after Rice’s withdrawal. “Unfortunately, the White House and other agencies are stonewalling when it comes to providing the relevant information. I find this unacceptable.”

Some think Rice could have survived the assault over her Benghazi comments–but not more recent criticism on other fronts–including her investment portfolio and her record on Africa dating back to the 1990s. Critics were also painting a portrait of Rice–one her allies call unfair and even sexist–as brusque and undiplomatic. (Compounding her woes was a recent tour of Capitol Hill that only seemed to make her predicament worse.) One Capitol Hill source with close ties to Obama’s foreign policy team recently told TIME he thought these additional issues might be the decisive factor in preventing her from succeeding the soon-to-depart Hillary Clinton as America’s top diplomat.

There may yet be a happy ending for Rice, who is reportedly eager to leave her New York-based assignment and return to her family in Washington. Obama is said to be considering making Rice his next national security advisor–a position with less prestige but far more influence over foreign policy than Secretary of State–and one that doesn’t require the approval of cranky senators. The hitch is that Obama’s current national security advisor, Tom Donilon, is happy in his job–and while he might happily leave it for Clinton’s job, he could face his own confirmation headaches.

(VIDEO: 10 Questions for Susan Rice)

But if a solution can be found, Rice’s critics may wind up regretting this fight. Back when Obama was preparing to take office in 2008, he made it known he wanted the intelligence community insider John Brennan to run his CIA. Outraged liberals shot down the pick, arguing (probably inaccurately) that Brennan had been complicit in harsh Bush-era detention and interrogation policies. So instead, Obama installed Brennan in a West Wing office steps away from his own, as his counter terrorism advisor. Brennan is now among the administration’s most powerful figures, largely directing the global campaign against terrorism. If Republicans genuinely believe that Susan Rice can’t be trusted to handle national security, they may wind up wishing that she had become a diplomat abroad, not a policymaker in the West Wing.

279 comments
budsan
budsan

It's a shame that Susan Rice relented to the zealous John McCain. Ms. Rice is the real military and foreign affairs expert NOT John McCain. McCain is a racist, dating back to 1988 McCain was one of a few senators that voted against the MLK Holiday. Besides from being a racist, McCain is a old, bitter, hateful, warmongering, liar. 

http://pol.moveon.org/mccain10/thanks.html?id=-17340335-0gXtorx

DREGstudios
DREGstudios

The situation in Libya is being politicized and the victims and there families being instrumented as a ruse to create doubt of Obama’s leadership. Public access to real facts is being whitewashed by this rhetoric while conservative hands paint the Blackface on our President. Watch them mix and apply the paints to his face in a portrait of Obama being Bamboozed by the Far Right at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/10/bamboozling-obama.html

sacredh
sacredh

Completely OT and my last post of the night, but my MIL is worried about the 21st possibly being the end of the world and maybe the date of the Rapture. I need to make a note to myself to turn the ceiling fan above her bed on high before I go to bed the night of the 20th. Call it a farewell gift.

JerryBallew
JerryBallew

In the early hours of the massacre in Connecticut, details are scarce. Perhaps tomorrow all will be revealed... But wait a minute, the same principle applies to the Bengazhi Massacre. The early reports were sketchy and it took time to reveal a politically-approved explanation. Cheap shots by Cheap Shooters Mr. John McCain (who rushed into buying the Palin as Prez bollox) et al. Simply a bottom-boy for the TeaBaggers who has stayed at the dance too long. Nobody wants to sign his dance card after this performance I suspect.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Two public shootings in a week. Does the NRA want to open up human season?

samziam
samziam

Add to this analysis that McCain has proven to be one of the sorest losers in presidential campaign history.  He is ending his career as a bitter, vindictive man--one willing to junk long-held political and policy positions out of fear of falling from favor with the teabaggers.  Ultimately, his self-bemirsched reputation will be the lingering memory.

sacredh
sacredh

Well, it's 50 and the sun is out here. I have a little outside work to do. I hope you folks got a chuckle out of the cartoons today.

outsider
outsider

Although the Senate select committee on intelligence voted Thursday to approve a 6,000-page report on the use of torture and extraordinary rendition by the CIA, the investigation will for now remain classified. According to the Guardian, Republican senators could push for the extensive report to stay under wraps, despite pressure from human rights advocates to make the information public.

“I believe it to be one of the most significant oversight efforts in the history of the United States Senate,” said chair of the intelligence committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). She noted that the report is “a comprehensive review of the CIA’s detention program that includes details of each detainee in CIA custody, the conditions under which they were detained, how they were interrogated, the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy—or inaccuracy—of CIA descriptions about the program to the White House, Department of Justice, Congress and others.”

The investigation is believed to conclude that the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” practices did not glean significant intelligence information. In contention with the narrative depicted in new film Zero Dark Thirty, which has renewed the debate over the role of torture in the hunt for Osama Bin laden, the Senate report is believed to conclude that effective torture did not play a central role in finding the al-Qaida leader.

As I noted yesterday, the vote to adopt the report coincides with a landmark ruling in the European Court of Human Rights, which on Thursday vindicated the claims of German-Lebanese man who had been subjected to torture and extraordinary rendition by the CIA. Khaled el-Masri was handed over to CIA agents by Macedonian officials and shipped to a secret Afghan prison dubbed “the salt pit.” Before the CIA realized they had mistaken el-Masri for another terror suspect, they had tortured him for five months. He was beaten, stripped and sodomized.

The European court ruled that both the United States and Macedonia must now issue el-Masri a full-scale public apology and appropriate compensation. For the first time the court explicitly used the term “torture” to describe CIA interrogations.

http://www.salon.com/2012/12/14/senate_approved_cia_torture_report_kept_under_wraps/

outsider
outsider

Ok, this is way way way off topic, but it's worth noting - and there is still no MMR:

If there’s one thing this election taught us, it’s that fighting against abortion in the case of rape should be avoided at all costs. And yet, Republicans may come back for another serving of Todd Akin’s humble pie.

Right now, if you’re a woman in the military, which has startlingly high rates of sexaul assault, and you get raped, you have the added insult to injury of having to pay for an abortion out of your own pocket. That’s because the military’s health insurance plan is the only one in the federal government that does not cover abortion in the case of rape or incest. It’ll only cover the procedure if the woman’s life is in dangerDemocrats in the Senate have tried to change this, but House Republicans have so far resisted, thus producing two different bills — one with the change and one without. Yesterday, the House named their representatives to a bicameral committee that will hammer out the differences between the two bills, including this provision. While killing the amendment could reignite the explosive abortion and rape debate of the summer, Republicans generally oppose the expansion of reproductive rights, even for raped female soldiers.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democrat who authored the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, told Salon, “This is an issue of equity.” Every other woman who gets federal health benefits, from civilian government employees, to Medicaid recipients, to federal prison inmates, gets abortion coverage in the case of rape. “It is only fair that the thousands of brave women in uniform fighting to protect our freedoms are treated the same. I have been encouraged by the bipartisan support this provision has received in the Senate thus far, and I urge the House and Senate conferees to continue that support,” Shaheen added.

The Senate passed Shaheen’s amendment 98-0, thanks in part to vocal support from Republican Sen. John McCain, even though nine conservatives on the Armed Services Committee initially opposed it. But House Republicans have been far less supportive. They did not include a similar provision in the House bill, and aides in the past have cast doubt on its prospects. “Historically, social provisions that are not reflected in both bills heading into conference don’t survive,” an unnamed GOP staffer told the Army Times in June. “Amendments like this have come up several times.”

http://www.salon.com/2012/12/14/house_republicans_new_todd_akin_moment/

roknsteve
roknsteve

"All I want for Christmas is a Fiscal Cliff, a Fiscal Cliff, a Fiscal Cliff"...."And some Righties charged with Perjury".

"I came upon a Benghazi smear that stunk right up to the Sky".... The preceding was brought to you by Corn for Cons but no Presents.  

BruceS78
BruceS78

I'm not sure that Rice was the best qualified of those that want to be Secretary of State, but I sure don't think that 1 or 2 Senators should ever be able to kill off a nomination simply by whining about a Sunday morning TV show.  Too bad the rest of us can't get rid of McCain and Graham as easily.  I hope Obama's White House finds a lot of ways to stick it to McCain and Graham.

roknsteve
roknsteve

Twas the night before Christmas and all thru the house, Not a creature was stiring, not even a mouse

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Grover soon would be there

The lobbiest's were nestled all snug in there beds, While visions of tax cuts danced in their heads

And Boehner in sweater with Canter on his lap, Had just lettled down for another Bourbon nightcap

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, The Speaker sprang from his chair to see what was the matter

Away to the window he flew like a flash, to see the Republican Party thrown out with the trash

          A poem from Rick Foster  

elvirtuoso1943
elvirtuoso1943

Message for Sam Smith--was right about lying Sue Rice.

If you are wondering , well able to converse in English.  Spelling on PC will improve, just as soon as I ditch my crappy keyboard and buy a new one.

Thanks anyway

Bob

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@JerryBallew McCain is a bully, as are many of the GOP male dominated IDIOTS. However, I think the WH did not do anyone a service by allowing her to back off. 

outsider
outsider

@nflfoghorn 

Oh you know the NRA line  - guns don't kill people. People, with easy access to guns, kill people. 

Or something like that. I dunno, but there was something about a bear with a flack jacket, i think. 

jmac
jmac

@samziam This is a man who thought Sarah Palin was more than qualified to be his Vice President as he skewers Rice.   Now that she's gone they can chalk up a win and move on to the next outrage.  It's not going to stop.    Obama said today that he would have been considered a moderate Republican in the eighties - me too. I WAS a moderate Republican in the 80's.  Unlike McCain and Graham,  I didn't sell my soul to stay with a party.  

jmac
jmac

@outsider2011 Will Fox be able to ignore this story?  They did a good job of passing on the Mall shooting.  I think O'Reilly was still jabbering about Christmas being killed by you know who.  

Sue_N
Sue_N

@sacredh Oh, if only I could like this more than once.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@outsider2011 

You can toss that on the pile of bile from a party that didn't want to ratify the UN treaty modeled after our Disability act. This common sense thing is just another roadblock in the eye of the party of no who treats politics as blood sports between elections as well as during. They're just not into legislating anymore.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@sacredh 

I'm glad that Obama is not wasting any political capital on something like that.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@BruceS78 

Just being in Office sticks it to McCain and Graham.  I'm sure McCain is particularly bitter over him winning his reelection.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

First comment I see in that article:

Rusty Shackleford:  God is angry that we elected a popstar as our president

:-/

Tero
Tero

@elvirtuoso1943 

Then why don't you wait until you get a new keyboard and an education? Just wondering?

outsider
outsider

@jmac @outsider2011 

Bill O has lost his mind; and he demonstrates it every time he's on the air.

That stuff about the University and Coulter??

But i hope Fox doesn't ignore this - these were kids; and it's just sad. Hand guns involved too.

tommyudo
tommyudo

If won't take very long today before the right wingers will argue that if the teachers had guns those students could have been saved. The only way we will ever have a solution to our gun culture is if Capitol security was to break down and we had dozenas of Senators and/or Congressman "terminated with extreme prejudice." You then might see talk about modifying the 2nd Amendment. Until then, any tragedy is just collateral damage justified as "things like this happen, when you have a free society." Oh yeah, then you have, "guns don't kill people, people kill people."

TyPollard
TyPollard

@Sue_N @sacredh 

I sometimes like and then unlike, and the like again over and over in a euphoric frenzy.

I am sad that way.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@MrObvious @DonQuixotic Yeah, we're not allowed to talk about sane gun policy in the wake of a shooting.

And since we're always in the wake of a shooting these days …

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@elvirtuoso1943 

I should add to this that I don't particularly care about grammatical errors others make (despite being a former copy editor), I just thought it was a silly point.

tommyudo
tommyudo

Why do you love guns and have a lot of them? I just don't get it. My old man was an avid deer hunter, and if he has been around while I was growing up I probably would have been a hunter too. As it is, I've never owned a gun, nor ever even held one, and I see no need to.

I get where you are coming from today, but I just don't get where your head was at yesterday. I'm frankly tired of the hand wringing everytime something like this happens and people fall back on their 2nd amendment right. Maybe it's time the 2nd amendment is repealed as it stands, and change it to suit America in 2012 and not America 1776.

BenevolentLawyer
BenevolentLawyer

@tommyudo I used to support the NRA, but for a while (until they became a rabid anti-Obama  GOP fear promoting machine). However, for while, I have been wondering about the rationale for this sort of unfettered ownership of all manner of assault and such related weapons. We own a lot of guns, and are very careful with them, however, I am wondering what would happen if our weapons ever got into the wrong hands--a terrifying thought

With the massacre of these children today, I think it has marked a turning point in my life on assault weapons and the need to better scrutinize and monitor folks who own guns.Yes, I love my guns, but if giving some of them up, would make life safer for children in this country, I will willingly do so in a heartbeat.

I am heartbroken by the slaughter of these innocent children. As a mother, for me, it is almost unbearable to hear and see the news on this matter. My heart is heavy with sadness regarding the loss of these innocents. Something HAS to be done to arrest this violence. I do not know what, but I hope other gun owners are taking note of the devastation and recognizing that we have to be willing to come to the table and negotiate a working policy.

The mass shootings have got to end.

Something_Clever
Something_Clever

@DonQuixotic @grape_crush  

Probably the best Craigslist ad of all time was for a keyboard with the 'k' missing and 'R' stuck on uppercase.  Google "free eyboaRd" and you'll find it (I doubt I can post a craigslist link).