Republicans are sure to make political hay over President Obama’s decision to appoint United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice as national security advisor.
Rice has been a partisan lightning rod since she went on the Sunday talk shows last fall and described the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, in a way that turned out to be inaccurate. Rice says she was presenting the talking points she was given at the time. Republicans accuse her of misrepresenting the attack to protect the president during a heated election. Their complaints were loud enough to thwart her chances of becoming secretary of state.
But they can’t stop her from getting this job, which doesn’t require Senate confirmation. This is as it should be. It is the president’s prerogative to appoint whomever he wants to his team.
Contrary to the recent unflattering portrayals of her, Rice is not a political hack. She is a seasoned diplomat with the experience to do the job. She has been a loyal confidante to Obama since his earliest days on the national stage and has the ear of the president. In a White House that keeps as many foreign policy decisions in-house as this one does, that matters.
One irony of the outcry against her is that she could now become more influential as national security advisor than John Kerry is as secretary of state. There is a danger that Republicans could continue to play politics with Benghazi, by holding up other nominations – such as the appointment of another longtime Obama confidante Samantha Power as Rice’s replacement.
Holding up another diplomatic post would not serve the US national interests and would not produce any more lessons about what went wrong in Benghazi. Such actions only showcase US political dysfunction and decrease US leverage around the world.
But those obsessed with Benghazi are still unwilling to let it go. The silver lining for them is that her appointment has gotten Benghazi back in the news. And now it gives Benghazi-ites an excuse for never finding that smoking gun: Conspiracy theories are already circulating that Rice was appointed in order to shield her from questioning about Benghazi, since White House aides generally do not testify before Congress. It is absurd to believe that the president would put someone in charge of coordinating the nation’s entire national security apparatus for this reason. But that doesn’t stop the most rabid Benghazi-ites from asserting it. The good news is that some Republicans are reacting to the news in a responsible way. Arizona Senator John McCain tweeted that although he disagrees with the choice, he will “make every effort to work with her on important issues.”