Commentary: The Susan Rice Battle Is Far From Over

Almost every time Republicans go on the attack against a smart, high-profile woman, they end up regretting it.

Posted: 12/14/2012 01:09 PM EST
Keith Boykin, Susan Rice

Yes, they have succeeded in forcing U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to withdraw her name from consideration to be secretary of state, but they've missed the bigger picture. Almost every time Republicans go on the attack against a smart high-profile woman, they end up regretting it.

From Shirley Sherrod to Sandra Fluke, Republicans keep winning these short-term political victories at the expense of their long-term credibility. When will they ever learn?

Remember Anita Hill? She was the Black law professor who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court. An all-male panel of the Senate Judiciary Committee interrogated Hill and openly questioned her honesty.

Republican President George Bush eventually won the nomination fight for Thomas, but not before outraging legions of women and inspiring them to seek public office. The following year, 1992, became known as "the year of the woman" in politics as female membership in the House grew from 28 to 47 and the number of women in the Senate doubled, including the first Black woman, Carol Moseley Braun.

That was also the year when Hillary Clinton first emerged as a controversial figure in American politics. Clinton would go on to become the most policy-engaged first lady in U.S. history, spearheading her husband's campaign for health care reform, and earning the venom of GOP lawmakers for years to come.

It's hard to believe considering the way Republicans fawn over Secretary of State Clinton today, but back in the 1990s GOP operatives and conservative conspiracy theorists accused First Lady Hillary Clinton of everything from overstepping her boundaries to orchestrating the murder of White House aide Vince Foster. After eight years, they eventually got rid of her when President Clinton left office in 2001, only to find her back in their faces as a colleague and newly elected U.S. senator from New York.

Then there's Elizabeth Warren, who was once President Obama's leading candidate to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A few years ago, Republican lawmakers joined forces with Wall Street insiders to derail Warren's candidacy before it even got started. They were determined to water down new regulations on big banks and financial institutions and Warren's aggressive pro-consumer advocacy threatened their plans.

Once again, Republicans won the battle, but they lost the war. Warren didn't get the presidential appointment, but she did get elected last month to the U.S. Senate by dethroning GOP golden boy Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Warren will now become a member of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, where she will exert even more influence over Wall Street than she could have as a presidential appointee.

Which brings us to Susan Rice. It's no secret that Republicans were hoping to stop Rice's nomination so Sen. John Kerry could become secretary of state and open the door for Scott Brown to run again for Senate in Massachusetts. This now seems a likely scenario, but trust me, it won't be the end of Rice’s story.

Obama is meeting today with Rice, and some are already speculating he may appoint her to be his national security advisor in his second term. Or perhaps she could end up as secretary of state under President Hillary Clinton in 2017.

I don't know where Susan Rice will end up next, but I can tell you this: A well-known 48-year-old Rhodes Scholar with senior government experience in two presidential administrations and a Ph.D from Oxford isn't going to suddenly disappear from the public spotlight. Republicans may live to regret what they did to Susan Rice.

What's that thing they say about karma?

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes political commentary for BET.com each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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