Despite the Obama administration being on the receiving end of months of hounding by Republicans over the deadly September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama has decided to tap Susan Rice as his new national security adviser, signaling that he isn't caving to political pressure from the GOP.
Flash back to December: Susan Rice was reportedly Obama's favorite to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of State. But as ambassador to the U.N., Rice had been widely lambasted by Republicans for initially portraying the event in Benghazi as a protest over the controversial video The Innocence of Muslims as opposed to it being a pre-planned terrorist attack. The pressure was enough to get her to withdraw, resulting in John Kerry getting the nomination.
The GOP likely felt assured that it had gotten its message across when Rice withdrew, but the latest news from the White House might change that perception: Because national security adviser requires no Senate confirmation, Obama no longer has to care what Republicans think about Rice. The position — which has been occupied by Tom Donilon — is, some argue, more influential than secretary of State.
None of this information is going to make Republicans happy, writes David Graham in The Atlantic:
The NSA gig is a consolation prize for Rice, but... [she] gets a big promotion and there's nothing [Senate Republicans] can do about it. The appointment is even more of a provocation because it comes as the GOP is still trying to make political hay out of Benghazi. [The Atlantic]
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), one of the congressmen who led the GOP's charge on Benghazi, expressed his disapproval on Twitter:
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) June 5, 2013
"I can't imagine, one, that we would be keeping Ambassador Rice in any significant position, much less promoting her to an important position," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on Fox News. "How will [the administration] ever have the authority for people to believe what they're saying, when they're promoting someone who directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi?"
Republican outrage might be tempered, however, by the fact that recent reports show that Rice wasn't all that involved in drafting the Benghazi talking points and that "a more tantalizing GOP target has emerged in the form of Hillary Clinton," argues John Hudson in Foreign Policy.
Reactions from some notable Republicans seem to bolster that theory:
Obviously I disagree w/ POTUS appointment of Susan Rice as Nat'l Security Adviser, but I'll make every effort to work w/ her on imp't issues
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 5, 2013
Amb Rice did a disservice to the nation when she made misleading stmts abt #Benghazi.However, its POTUS' call & I'll work with her going fwd
— Kelly Ayotte (@KellyAyotte) June 5, 2013
Even if Rice's nomination doesn't have every Republican foaming at the mouth, why stir the pot when Obama could have picked a less controversial candidate? Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg ponders the answer:
Her influence will be especially pronounced, I think, because she is part of Obama's original foreign-policy team — in what could have been a near-suicidal career move, Rice, a former official in President Bill Clinton's administration, signed on to Obama's campaign when his victory didn't seem at all assured.
In the period when the Senate's scapegoating of Rice was at its peak, Obama seemed frustrated by the manner in which she was treated. Her appointment today is partly payback for her loyalty, and a thumb in the eyes of her Senate critics. [Bloomberg]
Rice is expected to take over Donilon's job after he steps down in early July.