By Corrie Hulse
While no official announcement has been made as of yet, it has become clear that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice is likely to be President Obama's pick to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. What many, including myself, initially saw as an obvious choice and a candidate who would glide through confirmation, has become a point of contention among a select group of Republican Lawmakers. Most specifically, Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham have come out vehemently against Ambassador Rice's appointment. These two, along with a few of their compatriots, believe Ambassador Rice was involved in a cover up over the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The two point to her interview on ABC days after the attack where, based on CIA information at the time, Ambassador Rice claimed:
"We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in — in the wake of the revolution in Libya are — are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there."
She further stated that the investigation was ongoing, and that this was the most up to date information she had at that moment. This assessment of the situation in Benghazi was later found to be incorrect, but according to the Obama Administration it was the best intel they had at the time. Senators McCain and Graham are using this television appearance as a reason to attempt to block Ambassador Rice's nomination. There is no discussion of any other reason she should not be appointed Secretary of State. Their singular complaint remains a television appearance where she did not label the attack an obvious act of terrorism.
Rather than pointing out the hypocrisy of their argument as many have, let me offer a few reasons why Ambassador Rice is a solid successor to Secretary Clinton. First, in stark contrast to UN Ambassadors of prior administrations, such as John Bolton, Ambassador Rice very obviously believes in the mission of the United Nations. She understands the interconnectedness of our world and views our involvement in international bodies such as the UN as a strength rather than a weakness. Her view of the world not as a collection of isolated states but rather as a global community, has guided her actions as Ambassador and one assumes would continue to do so in the role of Secretary of State. This understanding of our global community will prove invaluable as it is the role of the Secretary of State to work closely with world leaders, negotiating and carrying out the president's policies.
Further, Ambassador Rice has long been outspoken on matters of human rights and civilian protection. Those in the human rights community are quite aware of her contributions. John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project recently spoke at an event hosted by Jewish World Watch. When asked about Ambassador Rice, he referred to her as "tireless and talented. She's always fighting for the right thing."
Many might be unaware, but Ambassador Rice was a junior staffer on the National Security Council under President Clinton in 1994 during the genocide in Rwanda. It was there she saw firsthand the consequence of inaction. Since then, she has been a strong advocate for civilian protection and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). She joined with Secretary Clinton and Samantha Power in the push to intervene in Libya in 2011. In the face of those who claimed Libya was not important to our national interests, she was among those who spoke for the value of human lives over political capital. She embodied one of my favorite slogans: "humanity before politics." The rest of her resume reads much the same way, focused on diplomacy, human security and international cooperation.
Ultimately, the point here is not whether Ambassador Rice the best choice ever (though I personally like the idea of her as Secretary of State). The point is that she is a serious nominee for a very important role in the President's cabinet. She is not a publicity stunt or an easy get for the administration. She is arguably one of the best qualified for the job. That senators would threaten to hold up the nomination based on a TV appearance is beyond baffling, and to me signals that there is an underlying issue Senator McCain has yet to bring up. Most likely it is not as flashy as screaming Benghazi! Benghazi! And does not get him the attention he desires for the investigation he wants. We shall have to wait and see what the rest of his fellow Republicans have to say when it comes to the actual vote. My guess is that Senators McCain and Graham will be fairly lonely out there on their limb.
Follow Corrie on Twitter @corrie_hulse