WASHINGTON — A variety of insults have been deployed in opposition to Susan Rice's likely nomination for secretary of state: She is not qualified; she's too aggressive; she “misled” the public following the lethal attack on the American consulate in Libya.
Upon closer examination, however, the real reason may be less complicated. She's not a member of the most elite club in America, the U.S. Senate. Also, she appears to be President Obama's first choice.
As anyone with a television knows, Rice has come under fire by the new, revised Tres Amigos — Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, plus Susan Collins of Maine. All have expressed concerns about Rice's role in delivering the administration's explanation following the Benghazi attack, which initially was blamed on street protests over an anti-Muhammad video, but later confirmed as a terrorist attack.
Off somewhere letting her hair grow, Hillary Clinton knitted her brows and noted that Rice has been an excellent U.N. ambassador. Which is to say, she didn't exactly go to the mat for her female colleague, who had the audacity to support Obama for president rather than the former first lady.
In Ganglandia, it's the New Kids versus the Clinton Machine. How dare Rice, once a Clinton administration appointee, defect?
Clinton, a McCain buddy from their years in the Senate, reportedly prefers another Senate pal, John Kerry, as her successor. So does McCain & Co. And so, needless to say, does Kerry, whose chiseled jaw alone constitutes a diplomatic arsenal. There's clearly no profit in Clinton, a likely presidential candidate in 2016, alienating allies and devaluing her own currency for Rice.
Even so, the opposition's arguments are weak, chief among them that Rice isn't qualified. This from McCain, whose vetting history includes about 80 minutes of conversation with Sarah Palin before selecting her as his running mate in 2008.
For the record, Rice is a graduate of Stanford University and a Rhodes scholar, who served as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Even this is troubling to Collins, who said that the Benghazi attack “in many ways echoes the attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region.”