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December 13, 2012 4:40 PM Rice Goes Away (From State, At Least), But Not Quietly

By Ed Kilgore

So the big news this afternoon is that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn from consideration to become Secretary of State, via a letter to the president that cited the likelihood of a “lengthy, disruptive and costly” confirmation process if she were nominated.

This not-so-subtle reference to the campaign of demonization against Rice being led by Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham is making the political implications of the withdrawal a much more prominent issue than the gig itself. Are Rice and Obama (assuming he had some role in this decision) rewarding bad behavior and guaranteeing its perpetuation? Is Graham going to carry Rice’s letter around the more atavistic precincts of South Carolina as a magic amulet against a right-wing primary challenge in 2012? Was this whole exercise a GOP plot to get John Kerry appointed to State so that Scott Brown can return to the Senate? Will the administration now be constrained to find a woman and/or minority member for the job?

I dunno. The only thing that’s clear to me is that Obama and/or Rice do indeed want to make a fight over this; otherwise, Obama would have chosen Kerry or someone else without the public suggestion that his first choice was taken off the table by Republican nastiness (it’s possible Rice went public without the White House’s approval, but her very close relationship with Obama, and her continuing high position in the administration, make that scenario unlikely); it’s not as though Rice is or ever has been the unanimous favorite among Democratic foreign policy types.

Rice, of course, may just be receiving the courtesy of making the first move to show her loyalty to Obama and the country, while making her tormenters look like the petty and bullying pols they actually are. But you’d have to figure there will be some additional thundering from the Oval Office on the subject before Obama moves on.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Josef K on December 13, 2012 5:00 PM:

    But you’d have to figure there will be some additional thundering from the Oval Office on the subject before Obama moves on.

    I'll take thunder, lightning, torrental rains, and maybe an earthquake or two.

    If Graham or McCain had any self-awareness or sense of dignity, they'd both submit their own letters of resignation today. They don't, and won't of course, but still. I'm starting to lean towards one of Shakespeare's lesser-known quotes from the Scottish play (Act 3, Scene 4, line 121).

    http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/macbeth/T34.html

  • Sasha on December 13, 2012 5:00 PM:

    My idea? Nominate Lugar for State. I fucking dare the GOP to block him.

  • Mimikatz on December 13, 2012 5:04 PM:

    There is now no reason to put McCain on the Foreign Relations Committee. I don't think Kerry is such a brilliant choice. I hope that Obama takes the time to pick a really good Sec of State. Susan Rice can stay at the UN, where she has been very effective. John McCain is a disgrace to the country and to his party, a grumpy old man who just can't get over the fact that a black man who is demonstrably smarter than he is beat him for President, and wanted to pick a black woman who is also demonstrably smarter than he is. The sooner he joins his pal Lieberman in oblivion the better for the country.

  • Hyde on December 13, 2012 5:07 PM:

    And so, Obama caved because a few Republican senators said boo. Whoever could have predicted this, other than everyone who has seen how Washington works these last 20 years?

    The prospect of an end to these endless capitulations was why some of us supported Obama over Hillary in 2008, but I guess I was too optimistic. Since GOP bullying has worked here, expect more of it. Regarding the fiscal cliff talks, you think Boehner and McConnell are going to be more conciliatory now, or more emboldened?

  • Blue Girl on December 13, 2012 5:08 PM:

    I'm not so sure her withdrawal doesn't have more to do with her investment portfolio and the fact she would benefit handsomely from the building of the Keystone XL pipeline than the Three Blind Mice in the Senate.

    As for the next Secretary of State, Lugar would be a good choice, as Sasha suggested, but so would Bill Richardson.

  • Doug on December 13, 2012 5:13 PM:

    Hyde, I could've sworn it was Rice who withdrew her name, but that wouldn't have given you anything to whine about, would it?

  • T2 on December 13, 2012 5:15 PM:

    considering 1-Rice had not been nominated for SecState, 2-the arguments against her being nominated were spurious and purely political, 3-Rice is the sitting US Ambassador to the United Nations and will continue as such, it's odd that the GOP sent prominent members to do the dirty work (and it was dirty work). Any number of House wackos could have done the same hatchet job Graham and McCain did. This was just pure Republican Meanness. Obama's revenge can be extracted at the expense of Speaker John Boehner, and here's hoping that happens, big time.

  • wheresthebeef on December 13, 2012 5:23 PM:

    Blue Girl-- Bill Richardson? Seriously? He's always struck me as being an affable enough oaf, but denser than a three year-old Christmas fruitcake, and only slightly less a political hack than the loathsome Ed Rendell. What am I missing?

  • meady on December 13, 2012 5:26 PM:

    I'm with Blue Girl. There's more to the story here and while I personally think Rice would have been a s good a choice as anyone, I doubt she is so head and shoulders above others that she's worth the expendature of political capital and/or aggrevation it would have taken to get her appointed. I just hope that Obama doesn't appoint Kerrey. There are likely other very good candidates there as well.

  • boatboy_srq on December 13, 2012 5:33 PM:

    Answers to your questions, respectively:

    Not necessarily. Of course. Naturally. And anyone except Kerry - just to p### off the Senate GOTea.

    Personally, I'd love it if he nominated McCain himself: it'd be amusing to watch how quickly McCain's peers in the upper chamber turn on him in that event, and I can imagine Bob Dole (especially after that embarrassing vote on the UN treaty) chuckling sadly in the wings. I think he'd be a terrible Secretary of State, but it would underline the GOTea opposition to anything about the BHO Presidency.

  • Blue Girl on December 13, 2012 5:33 PM:

    @wheresthebeef -- A lot, I'm afraid. He is something of a diplomatic savant.

    Off the top of my head, without using teh google...

    He went to North Korea and got back a living pilot that they had shot down *and* brought back remains from American war dead just for good measure. He negotiated the release of Red Cross workers in the Sudan. He has successfully negotiated for captives from Cuba to Somalia. And he was pretty damned good as our UN ambassador under Bill Clinton.

  • gocart mozart on December 13, 2012 5:35 PM:

    Rice for ambassador to Libya

  • N. Wells on December 13, 2012 6:06 PM:

    Rice's withdrawal looks like a capitulation to a completely bogus Republican hissy fit. I'd have thought that putting her nomination forward would be the only way to avoid rewarding the Republicans, as I think by now they've learned that they can demonize anyone and make them toxic: Peter Diamond, Elizabeth Warren, et al. I'd like to think that their behavior with Rice would come back and bite them the way it did with Warren, but I'm not hopeful.

  • Hyde on December 13, 2012 6:31 PM:

    Doug: I guess you don't know a face-saving cover story when you see one (from the immediacy of the WH response, it's obvious her "withdrawal" was heavily choreographed), but I suppose having been born yesterday, there's a lot you probably don't know.

  • Josef K on December 13, 2012 6:59 PM:

    Hyde at 5:07 PM:

    And so, Obama caved because a few Republican senators said boo. Whoever could have predicted this, other than everyone who has seen how Washington works these last 20 years?

    Okay, last I checked (a) HRC was still the Secretary of State, and (b) Ambassador Rice still held her post at the UN, and (c) no-one else has been officially nomiated for SecState. How Ambassador Rice's withdrawl of her name as a potential nominee for SecState, in light of the absurd 'controversy' King, Graham and McCain have sput un qualifies as President Obama "caving" here is beyond me.

    The prospect of an end to these endless capitulations was why some of us supported Obama over Hillary in 2008, but I guess I was too optimistic. Since GOP bullying has worked here, expect more of it. Regarding the fiscal cliff talks, you think Boehner and McConnell are going to be more conciliatory now, or more emboldened?

    One of the problems with our current crop of officeholders is you have some genuine sociopaths in there who don't give a damn about the damage their are doing to the country, whereas those who actually do care have to actually deal with them as effectively as possible to ensure that damage is at least minimized and our government can continue to function.

    I'd also say that the White Houses' current negotiating posture (re: both the Bush tax cuts, the Budget Control Act, and the Debt Ceiling) reflects the kind of harder-headed approach you're asking for. The fact the whole thing has all sorts of dire consequences being projected...well, are you prepared for the worst case scenarios of head-on collison?

  • bobatkinson on December 14, 2012 1:03 AM:

    Bill Clinton for Sec. of State. Why not? Would drive the already batty over the top no?

  • Cha on December 14, 2012 1:37 AM:

    To those who think the President caved.. you really don't know the President at all.

  • Cha on December 14, 2012 1:42 AM:

    And, Susan Rice hasn't gone anywhere. She's staying right where she is as Ambassador to the UN.

  • LAC on December 14, 2012 10:10 AM:

    The "face saving" comment - is that you projecting because you have to go home this Christmas and yet again explain to the family why you are disappointing them again this year? I mean, I can tell by your emoprog whining that face saving is what you do best, but I think that, again, facts are not with you.

    Huckleberry Closetcase does know that this Bengazi nonsense will not be something that he can wave around in S.C, right? They can barely spell the word.

  • Crissa on December 15, 2012 8:19 PM:

    Rice's letter should make clear something to liberals: Why the hardest part Obama has now is getting people to take his call.

    Why would anyone stand up to take the Republican's lies and abuse, if no one ever calls them on it? And even if the President does - the media continues to listen to the Republicans instead ala Sunday shows.

    Because that was Rice's biggest crime: Showing up at the Sunday shows.