U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice withdrew her name Thursday as President Obama’s leading candidate for secretary of state, saying the administration could not afford a “lengthy, disruptive and costly” confirmation fight over statements she made about the extremist attack in Libya that killed four Americans.
Rice called Obama on Thursday morning, before sending him a letter officially withdrawing from consideration. Rice said in an interview that she had concluded early this week that what she and Obama considered “unfair and misleading” charges against her over the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, would impede the president’s second-term agenda.
“This was my decision,” Rice said. When asked if Obama had tried to dissuade her, she said that he “understood that this was the right decision, and that I made it for the right reasons.”
Her withdrawal leaves Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) with no apparent rivals to take over from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. A senior administration official said that “something strange would have to happen” for Kerry not to be the choice.
Last time I checked, we already had a Secretary of State. Now while it’s true that Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said she intends to resign her post, she has not officially announced her intention to do so or given a date when she intends to leave. But let’s forget about those minor details.
As I’m sure you recall from you high school civics classes (those of you who made it to high school anyway) the President nominates people for high-ranking posts in his administration and the Senate gets to use its “advise and consent” power to veto or approve those nominations.
There has been a lot of speculation among the talking heads and bloviating gasbags as to who might replace Hillary in a second Obama administration. But I don’t recall any official announcement that Susan Rice was the leading candidate for the job. I don’t even recall anybody in the Obama administration admitting publicly that she was even A candidate. On the other hand it’s no secret that John Kerry coveted the big office at Foggy Bottom.
So what we had yesterday was the spectacle of Susan Rice “officially” withdrawing from consideration for a job nobody was officially in the running for. Seems like pretty good theater to me.
We will never know for sure who Obama intended to nominate to replace Hillary. If he had planned to nominate Dr. Rice, we don’t know if she would have been approved or not.
But we do know that Obama plans to get maximum political mileage out of a nomination that never happened. Susan Rice could have notified Obama with a phone call or in a private meeting. She certainly didn’t need to write a letter to withdraw from a job she was never officially offered. Nor did she need to make a public announcement. Now the GOP will get blamed for something they never even got a chance to do.
Well played, Mr. President. Well played.