Opinion: Susan Rice is wrong choice for State

December 2, 2012


Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot with a campaign to prevent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice from being nominated secretary of state.

The assault on Rice is supposedly due to comments she made just after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. The GOP just can’t seem to drop its failed preelection plan to create a huge scandal out of the tragedy. But the anti-Rice crusade is not only unseemly; it’s counterproductive.

By rousing President Obama’s ire with a campaign against his friend Rice, Republicans are boxing him in to picking her over the other, better candidate, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. That’s a shame, because Rice isn’t the right choice for this critical position — for reasons that have nothing to do with the Benghazi attack.

Before I get to those reasons, let me bury the flap over Rice’s minimal role in the Benghazi brouhaha. In appearances on several television talk shows after the attack, she said it was a spontaneous response to a notorious anti-Muslim YouTube video. Her remarks were based on talking points she’d been given in an intelligence briefing. She stressed that her information was incomplete pending further investigation.

You might fault Rice for not probing further, since news reports were already alluding to terrorist involvement. She might have done well to recall how Colin Powell was conned by his intel briefers about WMD in Iraq before his infamous 2003 speech at the United Nations. However, her repeat of her briefers’ take on an assault still shrouded in CIA secrecy was hardly a sin.

A far more important issue is whether the U.N. ambassador has the proper temperament and background to succeed Hillary Clinton. It is here that the spotlight should be shone.

No doubt Rice is a highly intelligent woman, with degrees from Stanford and Oxford. But she has established a reputation for brusqueness and bluster that raises real questions about her suitability for the job.

She has riled European diplomats at the United Nations with her public criticism of their positions on Iran negotiations and other issues. She denounced Russian and Chinese vetoes of a Security Council resolution on Syria as “disgusting” and “shameful.” That may well have been true, but such public displays of moral fervor will hardly help America’s top foreign-policy emissary negotiate behind the scenes.

Equally worrying is the lack of heft and breadth in Rice’s experience. During the Clinton administration, she worked on peacekeeping issues at the National Security Council and as assistant secretary of state for Africa. (She famously demanded that U.S. troops be sent to Sudan to prevent a genocide in the Darfur region — an idea that thankfully gained no traction.)

As U.N. ambassador, Rice helped persuade the president to endorse NATO intervention in Libya, but she has hewed to his reluctance to help the opposition in Syria, where the killing of civilians is far worse and the strategic stakes far greater. And the U.N. microcosm does not teach the skills she would need to manage America’s relationships with the real world.

The next secretary of state will have to deal with a rising China and its nervous Asian neighbors. She or he will have to handle a convulsing Middle East and South Asia. Rice has expertise in none of these areas, and personal relationships with none of the region’s leaders.

Kerry, on the other hand, with 27 years on the Foreign Relations Committee, knows every global player. Example: In 2009, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai flew into a dither and refused to sanction a presidential runoff election, Obama dispatched the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who patiently walked Karzai around his Kabul residence for hours and won his acquiescence.

I can’t imagine Rice doing something similar. Perhaps it’s unfair, but I can only picture her demanding that Karzai get his act together, now.

Of course, the strongest card Rice has to play is that she and Obama are buddies. However, looking back at another woman named Rice (Condoleezza), who parlayed a campaign friendship with George W. Bush into high office, I don’t regard pal-ship with POTUS as a guarantee of good performance.

Obama, who has kept foreign-policy decisions close during his first term, will need to delegate more as he focuses on fixing domestic problems. The foreign-policy challenges the country faces will be huge. He needs someone with the broad global experience of Clinton, not someone learning on the job.

The president shouldn’t let the Republican critique of Rice box him in to the wrong choice. And Republicans would do better to button their lips.

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


ThePilgrim 5 years, 5 months ago

Neither Rice or Kerry are the right choice for the Secretary of State position. Especially Kerry. Despite the "Swift Boat" allegations from 2004, there are enough facts that he should not in any way be "Mr. Secretary". America faces great foreign relations challenges in the next four years - - Palestine getting a statehood vote from the UN greatly complicates any relations in the region, no matter how you look at it or whose "side" is favored. - We are actively choosing "winners and losers" in Syria, and likely arming the rebels, although the rebels likely have ties to al Qaeda. - Iran will almost certainly finish their nuclear program in the next four years. And they have been escalating military action in the Persian Gulf.

One of the reasons that Obama won reelection was his relatively strong foreign policy, and his victory over Osama bin Laden. And Romney showed no significant difference in ideas in the foreign policy debate, and actually agreed with most of Obama's plans (most of which, surprisingly, were the continuation of "W"'s policies, but I digress). The last thing that we need in these challenges is a policy of appeasement with "Mr. Appeasement" in the lead position.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

In a few respects US foreign policy has moved slightly towards the center under Obama, and in other respects, especially drone strikes on other countries that have killed hundreds if not thousands of innocent people, it's become even more militaristic. Bottomline, there's nothing "left-wing" about either Rice or US foreign policy in general.

weeslicket 5 years, 5 months ago

a helpful editorial. it's been hard to understand the republican petulance over the "bad intelligence" regarding benghazi, but i guess they want to keep beating that dead horse a while longer. when susan collins said she had concerns, that was worth paying attention to. however, i've heard nothing else from her on those concerns since. all this reminds me a little of john bolton, who you may or may not have liked as un ambassador, but who most certainly would have been an awful choice for secretary of state.

in the meantime, it helps to remember that hillary clinton has done a superior job as secretary of state.

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

She does remind me of John Bolton and he would have been a disaster as Secretary of State. While a brusque manner has its time and place, it really does not serve the Secretary of State well.

Kerry would be the better choice. There are plenty of other positions Susan Rice could fill and be more effective.

John Hamm 5 years, 5 months ago

Benghazi will never be "a dead horse!" Four Americans dead with no answers from the WH as to who said "stand down." An American General relieved from his command for attempting to assist. A Navy Admiral relieved from his command two weeks later with the only explanation being an "ongoing investigation."

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

But it was only four Americans. Let bygones be bygones. Four people die everyday in America and you aren't wanting answers about that. Just accept that it was all a mistake and cut the president and Ms Rice a break. It may not happen again.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

OB, you must be privy to a lot of information. Where is your link to all this info?

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

"Contemporary left wing hypocrisy is unprecedented."

Nah, there's a pretty standard amount. The unprecedented part is the amount of mental gymnastics and obsession that you'll go to show that it's unprecedented.

But you knew that already.

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

And, of course, it goes without saying that, with you, "left wing" = "not the right wing"

But you knew that already, as well.

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

Smart? All you really need is eyes that are open.

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

That is, of course, one of a few possibilities.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

"Great fun to watch the usual bozos"

Careful-- some of them don't even rate "bozo" status.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

You've frequently stated that we're all Bozos on this bus. Are you now saying that some of us are more equally bozo than others? Oink, oink!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, I am the self-appointed arbiter of all things "bozo."

Katara 5 years, 5 months ago

The proper reply would be "Honk! Honk!" not "Oink! Oink!"

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

There are obviously contributors to this thread that have no intentions of contributing to a worthwhile productive discussion. Their only purpose is to troll and pull other worthwhile contributors into their sick little worlds. I say off with these repeat offenders. I guess you can avoid the terms of agreement so long as you can take the time to make up a new name and re enter. Not much worthwhile here.

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

This award-winning news corporation, like everything else, has a price. I suggest you buy it and ban everyone that doesn't say what you want them to .Maybe you can start some sort of web-based funding drive to get the money. However, you need to make sure all donors are aware you and not them will be in charge of determining which speech will be allowed.

A quick start might be searching your sofa for change. You probably won't find more than a few thousand dollars there, but it will be a great start on a fine new day of you putting your feet down and your fingers further in your ears.

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

Not really liberty, if you want to support people who drag the quality of these threads to a jerry springer level, thats fine, and if I suggest that a more mature, adult level of discussion would make for a higher quality discussion, then that is fine as well.

verity 5 years, 5 months ago

One can always ignore them. They thrive on attention and stirring up conflict. Don't give it to them. I don't know if they will go away or not, but ay least the grownups can have a conversation.

Briseis 5 years, 5 months ago

Rice, Clinton and Obama are responsible for Mubarak removal.

23 Major Terrorist Attacks in Post-Mubarak Egypt Friday’s deadly terrorist fire on the IDF was at least the 23rd major attack since the ouster of Mubarak in the “New Middle East.”

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu First Publish: 9/23/2012, 11:33 AM



Rice would be perfect to rule a bunch of Muslim Brotherhood men. Obama's men that he and Hillary skillfully put in charge of Egypt.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm reduced to replying to my own posts. Why? Because the LJW's insane policy of removing posts without any indication that a post was even there. Now, my comment looks as if it was in response to the comment above. It was not. It was in response to the removed comment. Which by the way, should not have been removed in the first place. It was funny.

LJW - Even if you feel compelled to remove a comment, leave some indication that a comment was there in the first place. Otherwise, the entire flow of the conversation is disrupted. Please, use a little common sense.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

Both sides are equally guilty of that moral relativism and hypocrisy precisely because we the voters don't hold them accountable. Democrat or Republican, Republican or Democrat. Two sides of the same coin.

There are a multitude of third parties out there. Think about that the next time you enter the voting booth.

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

I held Bush and his regime accountable every day and still do.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

I held Ulysses S. Grant and his regime accountable every day and still do.

How's it working out for you?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

So, you're saying that the innumerable effects that BushCo actions and policies, after a mere four years out of office, have on present-day circumstances are comparable to those of the US Grant administration, which has been out of power for nearly a century and a half?

Please, fill us in on how that works out.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

What I'm saying is that the misdeeds of both Grant and Bush have no statute of limitations and never will. Isn't that how you read the post that I replied to? That's what it seemed to say and I agreed. I simply saw no flaw in that logic and had to agree.

BTW - Following that logic, every failure of the war on poverty, every misstep, every excess can and should be laid at the foot of LBJ. Is that the way it works in Bozo land?

Engage sarcasm meter for those who have not yet detected huge doses already.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

If it was sarcasm, it was poorly done. I don't have a very good detector for that.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

You "really" thought I held Grant accountable? Really?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

No, I thought you were saying that Bush should be held accountable for nothing, which is idiotic.

If that's not what you meant, you had no point at all, and that doesn't rate as sarcasm.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

You just want to argue, even when my post was in jest.

It's a beautiful day outside. Get some fresh air. Enjoy a pleasant walk on a nature trail. Go for a bike ride. Have a great day, Bozo.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

You may suck at sarcasm, but you're ability at smarmy smugness is unparalleled.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

I would thank you but really Bozo, you don't know me at all. As I write this, I'm preparing for a pleasant bike ride. You've mentioned before you like to do the same. I'll smile at you should we cross paths. You see Bozo, I can compartmentalize my disagreements with various posters while still maintaining my humanity. Can you?

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

By all means, I hope you had (are having) a nice bike ride. Quite a nice day for December wouldn't you say.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 5 months ago

A wonderful ride, thank you. I saw a coyote in a field out by Clinton. That always brings a smile to my face. No deer, today. Maybe tomorrow.

purplesage 5 years, 5 months ago

Bad choices make for more bad choices. This country foolishly chose another 4 years of Obama. So, we will pay for his poor picks for high level posts in government. Look at the cabinet. About the best thing you can say is that it got Sevelius out of Kansas - but now she impacts the whole country. And he will pick more liberal-left Supreme Court justices. This individual has boondoggled in Africa and lied to the public. In fact, for all of you who somehow forget that senators and representatives and military leaders, irrespective of party, all called for the action in Iraq, insisting on wmd's based on faulty intelligence. Can't blame then-president Bush for all of that one. But you will.

And talking about accountability, Obama has none. No election to face, so look out America.

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