Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why Susan Rice Matters

Some call it the curse of the second term but recent events are looking a lot like the early days of his first administration.

The nonsense which surrounded UN Ambassador Susan Rice is a bad sign of things to come in Obama's second term. The non-controversy surrounding the remarks she gave shortly after the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Bengazi, Libya was touted by some on the right as proof that Obama was a liar who not only should not be re-elected but he should be immediately impeached.

Coming off a convincing electoral victory which no one would have predicted in early 2012 one would think that President Obama would have been ready to steamroll over the Republicans and that the Republicans would have learned the meaning of humility. But unfortunately that has not been the case.
After it became clear that Susan Rice was one of the leading candidates to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, the Republicans ratcheted up the anti-Rice rhetoric lead by Senator John McCain whose foreign policy positions were heavily criticized by Rice when he ran for President in 2008.  One never to let a slight go, Sen. McCain rounded up his posse which included long-time South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and first term New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte to harass Susan Rice until she finally withdrew her name from consideration for the office of Secretary of State.

Speculation ran rampant as to whether Susan Rice voluntarily withdrew her name from consideration or if the White House threw her under the bus because the White House didn’t want to expend political capital. One clue is after Rice publicly took herself out of consideration is that a rumor was floated Rice could be considered for the position of National Security Advisor, which doesn’t require Senate approval, as some type of consolation prize.

Another baffling development was Rice’s interview with Brian Williams during which she explained why she withdrew her name for consideration. It wasn’t as if she had already been nominated and changed her mind and needed to explain to the American public why she was no longer willing to slog through a sometimes brutal conformation process Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was the frontrunner to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Not only was Kerry considered as a contender for SoS against Clinton in 2009, but Kerry is mainly responsible for President Obama’s  meteoric political trajectory since he gave the then little known Illinois state senator who was running for the U.S. Senate  a prime time speaking role during the 2004 Democratic Convention.

If Rice had been nominated she would have faced fire from the Left for having supported the Iraq War.  As Secretary of State Rice would have faced a conflict of interest early in her tenure because the State Department will play a crucial role in approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline while Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million of stock in the company TransCanada which is wants to build the pipeline.

The incident was embarrassing for the president whether President Obama threw Susan Rice under the bus as he did Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod the perception is that he doesn’t seem to be willing to invest any of his political capital in persons of color that the Right Wing consider ‘controversial’.