1. News & Issues

Rice Withdraws From Secretary Of State Consideration

Saddened By Politicization Of Process


Rice Withdraws From Secretary Of State Consideration

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice

Photo courtesy U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Updated December 14, 2012

United States representative to the United Nations Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration to be U.S. Secretary of State after a month-long battle with Republicans who vowed to block her approval. She made the request in a December 13, 2012, letter to President Barack Obama.

Obama regretfully accepted Rice's withdrawal, and he lamented the "unfair and misleading attacks" on her. However, Obama commented that "her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first."

Rice had been one of the top contenders to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Clinton announced last year that, should Obama win re-election, she was not going to stay on as the nation's top foreign policy diplomat.

Rice's withdrawal put Massachusetts Senator John Kerry at the top of a list of possible Clinton replacements. Kerry is chairman of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, and he has made many international diplomatic trips.

Controversy Over Rice

Rice withdrew her name to prevent what she called a "lengthy, disruptive and costly" confirmation process. Republicans sniped at Rice almost continuously after Obama's reelection November 6 for comments she made after an Islamist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others on September 11, 2012.

Rice commented on Sunday-morning news shows following the killings that the attack grew out of a larger demonstration at the consulate against an anti-Muslim video apparently produced in the United States. Other embassies in the Middle East also endured similar demonstrations.

Intelligence reports and further investigations revealed that the Benghazi attack was perhaps a premeditated terrorist attack unrelated to the video demonstration, but which used the demonstration as cover. Republicans in the 2012 presidential campaign tried to slam Obama for saying much the same thing as details of the attack developed.

As a member of the U.N. delegation, not the State Department, Rice probably had little first-hand knowledge of the events of the Benghazi attack when she gave the interviews. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)later said it had given her approved "talking points" to follow during the interviews.

Republican Attacks

Nevertheless, Republicans focused Rice's comments as evidence she was unfit to be Secretary of State. Chief among her opponents was Arizona Senator John McCain. McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a Vietnam veteran and a former prisoner of war. As such, he holds plenty of foreign policy clout.

McCain said on December 11 that, if Obama nominated Rice for secretary, he would request membership on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, then use his position to fight her confirmation.

That was apparently enough for Rice. Rice said the Secretary of State position "should never be politicized." She added that, "I am saddened that we have reached this point, even before [the president has] decided whom to nominate."

Continues As Ambassador

Rice will continue as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. with Obama's full blessing. He said, "I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador . . . . I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend."

Rice has been U.N. ambassador since January 22, 2009. She was on the National Security Council, and she was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Clinton administration. Obama praised her work to support sanctions against Iran and North Korea, he work for post-Qaddafi Libya, and her stand "for Israel's security and legitimacy" in the face of a Palestinian bid for statehood status within the U.N.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.