United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn from consideration to be Secretary of State after Hillary Clinton steps down, sparing President Obama what promised to be a heated confirmation battle in the Senate. Powerful Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, were threatening to block the appointment, saying Rice had disqualified herself by making misleading statements about the Sept. 11 Benghazi terrorist attack that killed Libya Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In her letter to Obama, Rice said the confirmation process would have been "lengthy, disruptive, and costly," and "simply not worth it to our country." Obama released a statement saying, "I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks," adding that her decision to bow out "demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first." If the president thought Rice was the best candidate, though, shouldn't he have pressed harder to make sure she got the job?
Obama was wise not to push too hard: Obama is "going to need to make some very wise hiring decisions if he doesn't want to go lame duck too early," says Jamie Chandler at Politico. He's got six to nine months to push his policies through. Then the 2014 midterm election campaign begins "and his tenure goes twilight." He needs to "nominate someone with a flawless reputation" who's on good terms with the Republicans." In the latter respect, Rice just didn't fit the bill.
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Caving like this sets a terrible precedent: Obama's decision to "push Rice out" — clearly, this wasn't her idea — "has given John McCain a scalp to hang in his Senate office," says Michael Cohen at Britain's The Guardian, "and has made it appear that the phony Benghazi scandal was Rice's undoing. The message sent to the Hill — whether true or not — is that if Republicans flap their gums and wave their arms enough, they can beat down the president."
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Obama is just accepting reality: Yes, Republicans complained about her statements on Benghazi, says Seth Mandel at Commentary. Liberals, however, criticized her for everything from having "an attitude problem" to being "too ambitious" to being too soft on African dictators as a young Clinton administration official. With both the Right and the Left raising objections to Rice, nominating her would have been a losing battle.
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