Commentary: A Sad Ending to Susan Rice’s State Department Dream

The U.S. ambassador's decision to bow out ends a spectacle of unreasonable Republican attacks on a brilliant public servant.

Posted: 12/13/2012 05:48 PM EST
Commentary: A Sad Ending to Susan Rice's State Department Dream

Susan Rice's decision to remove her name from consideration for the position of Secretary of State is one of the saddest, most disappointing chapters in the politics of Washington.  

Here is one of the most brilliant and accomplished public servants, a Black woman who is a Rhodes Scholar with a glittering résumé, being vilified by the likes of conservative Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham over the flimsiest of controversies.

Rice was the target of relentless and unprincipled opposition from Republicans in Congress because of her statements regarding the unrest in which four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya.

She appeared on television talk shows saying that the turbulence in Libya was the result of spontaneous violence rather than a concerted act of terrorism, simply reiterating the talking points supplied to her by American intelligence agencies. And rather than questioning the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Republican senators took their aim on Rice in what seemed a highly personal attack.

Leading that attack was McCain, who lost to Barack Obama in 2008 and who made persistent criticism of the president's administration. During the 2008 campaign, Rice, a strong supporter of Obama, had her own criticisms of the Arizona senator. But his 2012 attacks on Rice were tenacious and completely beyond reason. McCain and his Republican colleagues sought to create a controversy where none really existed.

In addition, Rice was the victim of a media feeding frenzy that played forcefully, if unwittingly, into McCain’s hands, giving oxygen to his criticisms of the United Nations ambassador. At one point, McCain was so eager to appear on television that he skipped an important congressional briefing on Libya in order to make himself available to denounce Rice in front of the cameras.

In a letter to President Obama, a gracious Rice said she had come to the point where she recognized that “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. The tradeoff is simply not worth it to our country.”

Rice would have been an incredible Secretary of State. But, despite this sad experience with blood-thirsty Republican senators, she will continue to be a highly capable public servant, either at the United Nations or in whatever role the president might invite her to serve.

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(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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