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.


purplesage 1 year, 4 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.


donttreadonme 1 year, 4 months ago

Too bad the rightwing didn't get their panties in such a twist when Condi Rice lied to us, but that is typical of the moral relativism of todays GOP.


Briseis 1 year, 4 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.


msezdsit 1 year, 4 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.


pushobamaoffthecliff 1 year, 4 months ago

Sisters like jonas were born smart. You didn't know that wristtwister? ;-)


jonas_opines 1 year, 4 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.


weeslicket 1 year, 4 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.


ThePilgrim 1 year, 4 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.


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