Let me offer my thoughts about Susan Rice’s withdrawal from consideration as Secretary of State. First, this decision probably came from the White House. Susan Rice, from everything I’ve heard, isn’t the kind of person who simply walks away from a job like Secretary of State in order to spare the country a contentious confirmation hearing.
Second, pushing Rice out, assuming that’s what happened, is a wise decision on Obama’s part. Her confirmation hearing would have focused substantial media attention on Benghazi. That’s the last thing Obama wants or needs. Now that Rice has bowed out, Benghazi will no longer be an issue for the MSM, and hence for the public at large. At least it won’t be an issue until Hillary Clinton, who has already “taken responsibility” for the biggest aspect of the Benghazi scandal — the failure to provide adequate security in the face of requests for it — runs for president.
The decision is also wise because there’s a chance Rice would not have been confirmed. When Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Susan Collins are against, or highly skeptical of, a Democratic nominee, there isn’t going to be any Republican support to speak of. And at least in the absence of a rules change, Obama can’t count on confirming a nominee without Republican support. Obama doesn’t want to start his second term with a stinging Senate defeat.
Obama must have been tempted to fight this one out, given the confidence that comes with reelection. His decision not to do so shows that, notwithstanding his inner arrogance, he’s thinking clearly about how to avoid the impaired second term syndrome so common (indeed, almost universal) in American presidential history. “No drama Obama” still exists.
Third, this is, however, a defeat for Obama. It seems clear that he very much wanted Rice to be his Secretary of State, rather than John Kerry, who is now the front-runner. Think about it. Who is the better choice from the president’s perspective, a loyal operative ready to do her duty for the team or a pompous long-time U.S. Senator with a strong mind of his own and the arrogance to go with it?
Fourth, John Kerry, if anything, will make a worse Secretary of State than Susan Rice would have. Kerry is a left-wing ideologue on foreign policy and America’s role in the world. His major contribution to recent foreign policy discourse was the notion that cozying up to the Syrian dictator, who now is barely clinging to power, represents the key to a successful U.S. Middle East policy.
Rice, to be sure, goes along with bad leftist thinking. But she does not appear affirmatively to add to it.
Fifth, even so, I’d rather have Kerry at the State Department than running the Department of Defense, his rumored destination before Rice’s downfall. On the other hand, if Chuck Hagel gets the nod to lead the Pentagon, we may all end up wishing that the White House had found someone other than Susan Rice to discuss Benghazi on television on that fateful Sunday.