Susan Rice's 'worst week' could derail Secretary of State bid
As critics go after her comments on the Benghazi terrorist attack, Susan Rice's race, gender, and personality have become part of the debate over whether she should be the next Secretary of State. Even those who might have supported her are floating other names.
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Then there’s the piling on over Benghazi – which seems to be largely a “shoot-the-messenger” flap, as Rothkopf puts it, and in which others find more than a hint of racism.Skip to next paragraph
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“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was the summer of 2008 again, when the angry white men of Fox News and conservative talk radio were attacking an accomplished, smart, well-educated black woman for not being ‘patriotic’ and ‘loving her country’,” writes political columnist Sophia Nelson, author of “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama.”
“Only this time, the punching bag is not First Lady Michelle Obama,” Ms. Nelson writes in the Daily Beast. “It’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.”
How can this be, protest Rice’s conservative critics, when another highly accomplished African-American woman – Condoleezza Rice – served as Secretary of State in a Republican administration?
Things do get a little complicated here.
Charles Krauthammer, the conservative Washington Post columnist, has gone after Susan Rice for saying that her early comments on Benghazi were based on talking points provided by US intelligence agencies. And yet in 2005, when Democrats were raising questions about Condoleezza Rice’s nomination to be Secretary of State in the Bush administration based on her erroneous statements about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” Krauthammer defended that Rice by writing that she “was not a generator of intelligence … [but] a consumer – of a highly defective product.”
In this case, at least, a double standard seems to apply.
Everybody has suggestions for a non-Rice Secretary of State nominee – from Education Secretary Arne Duncan (the Atlantic’s Goldberg and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman) to US Senator John Kerry. Senate Republicans would love to have it be their Senate colleague, if only to give Scott Brown (sent packing by Elizabeth Warren) or some other Republican a shot at the Massachusetts seat Kerry would have to vacate.
Assuming Obama sticks with Rice as his first-choice nominee, her record at the UN presumably will come into play.
“She has gained tremendous, even unparalleled experience, at the United Nations,” argues Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic. “She has learned how to parry the Russians and the Chinese; she has figured out the snakepit ways of the international system; she has seen up-close the hypocrisy of totalitarian and anti-democratic states (states that still make up a good portion of the UN membership).”
“At the UN, Rice has become an eloquent voice for human rights, and she has done an able job of arguing against the wildly disproportionate criticism leveled at Israel in the General Assembly and in putative UN human rights forums,” Goldberg writes. “She has been far from perfect in the job, but she has generally been solid.”