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Why Susan Rice withdrew her name as secretary of State (+video)

Republican senators had vowed a fight if Obama nominated Susan Rice to be his next secretary of State. Their opposition centered on her erroneous public statements about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

By Staff writer / December 13, 2012

This file photo shows UN Ambassador Susan Rice leaving a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rice has withdrawn herself from consideration as the next US Secretary of State.

Evan Vucci/AP/File

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Washington

Ambassador Susan Rice stunned Washington Thursday afternoon by withdrawing her name for consideration as secretary of State. President Obama accepted her decision.

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Currently the US envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Rice was widely seen as a top prospect to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is retiring at the end of Mr. Obama’s first term. But her star was tarnished in September after she made erroneous statements on TV about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

High-profile Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, had promised a major fight if Obama had sent her name to the Senate for confirmation. By accepting her withdrawal, Obama has avoided expending political capital in trying to get her through the Senate, and also avoided refocusing the national spotlight on what went wrong in Benghazi. 

“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to Obama and obtained by NBC News. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…. Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.” 

The White House released a statement from the president indicating that he had spoken with Rice, and accepted her request to remove her name from consideration. He lauded her service as “an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant.”

“While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first,” the president’s statement said.

At issue were her statements over what had precipitated the attack on the US mission in Benghazi. In a round of Sunday morning TV interviews five days after the Sept. 11 incident, she said it had resulted from spontaneous protests over an anti-Islamic video and was not a coordinated terrorist attack, possibly linked to Al Qaeda affiliates.

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