The drama surrounding the possible nomination of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as President Obama’s Secretary of State is a fascinating test for the Republican Party to demonstrate how far a bunch of old white men have progressed in their thinking about the capabilities and temperament of a talented black female.
Senators such as John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina have tried to use Rice’s comments on the Sunday morning talk shows about the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya as justification to oppose Rice—whom Obama hasn’t even nominated yet—but they must be aware of the shakiness of their position. As many have pointed out, former Secretary of States Colin Powell and Condi Rice, who was President Bush’s National Security Advisor at the time, set the gold standard for misleading statements when they both promised the world that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—and therefore the U.S. needed to invade.
But we never heard McCain or Graham calling for their heads after their position was exposed as a lie.
More recently, John Bolton, Bush’s UN Ambassador, was described with much of the same language that critics have used to describe Susan Rice—”blunt,” “aggressive” and “bull in a china shop.” But McCain and Graham were vocal supporters of Bolton during his Senate confirmation hearings. Some Republican senators even suggested that Bolton’s toughness was an asset in negotiating with the rest of the world.
As for that loaded word that McCain leveled at Rice—”incompetent”—a library full of books can be written about how accurately that word describes the woman John McCain nominated to be his vice president, one heartbeat away from the most powerful person on the planet. Would McCain and the Republicans really like to get into a skirmish that included comparing the resumes of Sarah Palin and Susan Rice? I think not. But let’s go there for a moment.
Palin: stints at University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu, North Idaho College, University of Idaho in Moscow and Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska before graduating from University of Idaho with a bachelor’s in communications, Miss Wasilla beauty pageant winner, third place in Miss Alaska pageant, Wasilla city council member, mayor of Wasilla, Chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, governor of Alaska—youngest person and first female to hold that position.
Rice: Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford, Rhodes scholar, earning master’s and doctorate degrees at Oxford, where her dissertation was selected as the UK’s most distinguished in international relations, member of National Security Council, Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, managing director and principal at Intellibridge, senior fellow at Brookings Institution, foreign policy advisor to presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, foreign policy advisor to Obama in 2008 campaign, UN Ambassador.
Uh, see what I mean?
Rice, incompetent? Really, Senator McCain?
As some have suggested, perhaps McCain’s views on Rice are directly related to the 2008 presidential campaign when, as a foreign policy advisor to Obama, Rice called McCain’s policies “reckless” and dismissed his trip to Iraq as “strolling around the market in a flak jacket.”
McCain was so pissed off, he put Rice squarely in his sights. Now he’s getting his chance at revenge.
Though 97 House Republicans sent the president a letter stating they oppose Rice’s nomination, it appears that McCain and Graham over the weekend had begun to backpedal on their opposition to the brilliant ambassador.
“I’d give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took,” McCain said on Fox News Sunday. “I’d be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.”
“I think she deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself and her position,” McCain said when asked if he might vote to confirm her as secretary of state. “But, she’s not the problem. The problem is the president of the United States, who, on — in a debate with Mitt Romney, said that he had said it was a terrorist attack.”
It appears that McCain was listening when the president said the attacks on her were “outrageous” and if anybody had a problem with Benghazi, they should come after him, not Rice.
On ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Graham said, “When she comes over, if she does, there will be a lot of questions asked of her about this event and others.”
Even the extremely pugnacious and partisan Republican Peter King of New York, one of the most radically right wing members of the House, struck a more conciliatory tone, actually complimenting Rice.
“Let me just say, I think Susan Rice has done an effective job as U.N. ambassador, especially on issues such as North Korea,” King said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
So maybe Republicans have wised up over the past week and realized going after Rice is ultimately a losing strategy—and certainly not one that’s going to enable them to attract the blacks, Latinos and women they need to have hope of ever winning back the White House.