Susan Rice withdraws from consideration for Secretary of State

From Rice’s letter to Obama: I am highly honored to be considered by you for appointment as secretary of state. I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, 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.


Would you say that she made a right decision and what’s next for her?


Sean Kay, Professor, Department of Politics and Government, Ohio Wesleyan University

Susan Rice was certainly well-qualified to be Secretary of State and it is unfortunate that she was never given the opportunity to present those credentials.  However, she was right to opt out of consideration as it was clear that her candidacy had become politicized.  This is a bad precedent, however, for American foreign policy, that a few Senators would undermine a nomination – and in this case on spurious grounds – even before it was announced.  Given the circumstances, she made the right decision – America cannot afford to have this be a position that is politically divisive and there are also many other equally qualified potential nominees who can serve America with distinction.  For now, I would anticipate that Ambassador Rice will remain in the UN position as her letter to President Obama would suggest.

Kurk Dorsey, Associate Professor of History, University of New Hampshire

I think Susan Rice certainly made the right decision. Republicans have enough seats in the Senate that the confirmation hearings were going to be very contentious, although she probably would have been confirmed eventually. Had she been confirmed, she would have had a contentious relationship with many senators, and that would have caused problems with any initiatives she presented.

At the same time, the fight over her confirmation would have prevented the Obama Administration from advancing its foreign policy agenda. Serving the president meant getting out of the way in this case. There’s no reason to think that she would be a better secretary of state than John Kerry.

I expect that she will stay on at the UN for a while, then resign and return to private life. She has been pretty open about her desire to get back to her family in Washington, D.C.

Matthew Hill, Lecturer in U.S. Politics, Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London

Senator McCain and other senior Republicans such as Senators Collins and Inhofe saw an opportunity to continue a criticism of the Obama administration’s foreign policy that was developed during the recent presidential election. The talking points that she was given by the White House to deliver to the nation on a series of weekend news shows included the suggestion, albeit a preliminary analysis, that the murder of the four US diplomatic personnel was a product of a spontaneous protest against the Prophet Mohammed video. The September 11 attack was during the US election campaign, and I suspect the discussion of a terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda related affiliates would run as a counter to the message the Obama campaign team was projecting in its success in containing Al-Qaeda’s activities, framed in large part by the killing of Osama Bin Laden. And it is within this context that Susan Rice became an unfortunate participant in electoral politics. In taking a swipe at the partisan and belligerent nature of the ever louder Republican opposition to her appointment as Secretary of State, Rice comments that the appointment of a national security official ‘should never be turned into a political football’.   Senator McCain’s victory is pyrrhic as Rice was an establishment candidate who would in fact have fulfilled the duties of the Secretary of State as he would have liked. Effectively, by taking her name out of the hat she has done both the Obama administration and herself a big favour. By pulling out of the race she saved the Obama administration from a public fight in the appointment process, and enabled the administration to concentrate its political capital from winning the election on the upcoming fiscal debate in Congress. She made the right decision for herself because she would have been made a pariah by the Republican opposition and would have effectively turned her into a partisan political appointee. It is always better to be, at the very least, tolerated by the other team. This would not serve her career interests in the long-term. I think she made a wise decision because Obama would probably not have nominated her because of the extra political fallout that would have ensued. So she may not have gotten the job she wanted but at the end of the day, she still has influence on US foreign policy as she maintains her role as the US Ambassador to the UN, which is a Cabinet position under Obama. There is also the possibility that she will be the next National Security Advisor, which does not have a Congressional appointee process and is also an influential position.


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