Political Animal


December 01, 2012 3:30 PM Rice, Kerry, and the Appointment Fight

By Jesse Singal

In The Boston Globe, Robert Kuttner argues that John Kerry shouldn’t be nominated as secretary of state or defense. Doing so, he says, would legitimize baseless Republican attacks on UN ambassador Susan Rice, Obama’s top choice for one of the posts, who the GOP has been raking over the coals for Sunday talk show appearances in which she gave what turned out to be misleading information about the Benghazi attacks that killed US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. It would also pull Kerry from his ultra-safe senate perch in Mass., potentially costing the Democrats a senate seat at a time when they have a narrow lead in that body and a vital midterm election is right around the corner.

As Kuttner points out, the GOP—many members of which are pushing for Kerry over Rice for what could be seen as pretty straightforward reasons—don’t actually have all that much leverage to stymie the appointment of the latter:

Obama seems to take the Republican attack on Rice personally, and may well stick with her as part of his new assertive stance. Republicans don’t have the votes to block her, and a Republican filibuster on a key appointment, at a time when Senate Democrats are seriously considering reform of the filibuster rules, could well backfire politically.

Oh, and just a friendly reminder that Benghazi-gate is pretty dumb. We should obviously do everything we can to investigate the tragic death of a US ambassador, but that doesn’t appear to be the goal of those claiming that Obama was involved in some sort of nefarious cover-up here.

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • KK on December 01, 2012 4:47 PM:

    As I said the other day, it is obvious why the R thugs are doing. If Kerry isn't complicit he ought give a full throated condemnation of the witch hunt and withdrAw himself from consideration That would be the dignified thing to do. Suck it up JK , we had to accept u as our standard barer so give us something back.

  • c u n d gulag on December 01, 2012 5:14 PM:

    So, the chicken-sh*t Swiftboater from 8 years ago, is now just fine for SoS?

    Methinks I smell the juices that are the by-product of ratf*cking.

  • jjm on December 01, 2012 5:34 PM:

    This analysis is essentially correct. The touting of John Kerry, who the GOP raked over the coals in '08, is ludicrous on its face from the point of view of their own yowling. Not to mention that I have serious doubts that the GOP (almost wrote GOOP) wouldn't rake him over the coals again for his anti-Vietnam war protests when he left the service as a highly decorated hero.

  • aimai on December 01, 2012 5:34 PM:

    She didn't give "misleading information." To say that is to buy into the premise that a functionary from another branch of government, briefed by the CIA on what they thought the public should know, did the "wrong" thing. It should be obvious that although oversight and transparency should exist with respect to foreign disasters like Benghazi that has absolutely nothing to do with what gets said, or heard, on the Sunday Talk shows. She gave a prepared set of remarks that had been vetted in order not to spill classified information in public. She couldhave done absolutely nothing else. The information was not "misleading" although it may have been incomplete--but it may not have been incomplete. It was immiediately after the incident. It should also be obvious that nothing was really known for certain at that point. Certainly nothing that needed to be communicated to the public and to anyone listening in another country. This is worse than a tempest in a teapot--if Rice had said anything more than what she said it is highly likely the republicans would have gone after her for violating classified procedure on the talk shows.


  • Milt on December 01, 2012 5:47 PM:

    The President should choose whomever he feels is best suited for both posts regardless of what the Republicans say. This back and forth argument among Democrats is exactly what the conservatives want. It only helps to plant the seed of fear. Let's all be afraid of what the Republican Senators think - lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

  • Wapiti on December 01, 2012 5:47 PM:

    I sort of hold the view these days that Senators should be held responsible for the strength of their state party organizations.

    If the Massachusetts Democrats don't have a strong replacement for Kerry, then he shouldn't be appointed to a cabinet office, be picked for VP, etc.

  • James E. Powell on December 01, 2012 7:02 PM:

    The president ought to appoint Susan Rice and the Democratic senators ought to eliminate the filibuster for presidential appointments. But that makes too much sense, so I am not expecting it.

    This is, in large part, the Josh Marshall 'bitch-slap' thing. You cannot let the Republicans continue to manufacture 'scandals' and win these personal attacks. Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod deserved full support from every Democrat, including the president. I'm sure there are others who I am forgetting.

    If we keep giving into bullies, we keep getting bullied.

  • biggerbox on December 01, 2012 7:13 PM:

    "Misleading" is repeatedly saying that all the intelligence services agrees that Iraq is working on weapons of mass destruction when you have reason to know that is disagreement and speculation, and considerable evidence they are not.

    Telling interviewers on Sunday talk shows what the vetted briefing told you about a rapidly evolving situation in which details are still unknown, and wrapping it in multiple caveats, is not misleading, except in the distorted sense, that it gives a pretext to those who, for base political reasons, choose to complain about being "misled".

  • Celui on December 02, 2012 8:49 AM:

    Evidently, character assassination and professional evisceration are back in vogue as campaign tactics. Rice did nothing wrong and is a worthy appointment for SoS, yet she is accused of withholding information from the American public; Kerry did nothing wrong and was accused of being a military slacker and undeserving of his record. Who mounts these infantile forays into public idiocy? And, why, oh why, does McCain continue to be booked onto the Sunday nonsense airwaves? Yes, I know, it's all about ratings, not content.

  • Mitt's Magic Underpants on December 02, 2012 9:46 AM:

    I applaud the Rs. They want Scott Brown back, and are clearly (and probably correctly) counting on the Ds to be gutless.

  • Wally on December 03, 2012 12:33 PM:

    I've been shouting at the TV for weeks over this exact thing. Every time a Republican says that the administration distorted the Benghazi events for political reasons, somebody in the media should immediately ask, "And what exactly are those political reasons?"