Of all the criticisms Republicans have thrown at UN Ambassador Susan Rice in recent weeks, they can never say she backs away from a fight. In fact, some have described Rice as “pugnacious”—a trait that may be in evidence today as she is scheduled to sit down with the three Republican senators who have been her biggest critics, John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of NEw Hampshire.
It is a meeting that was requested by Rice’s office, according to the Washington Post. But the fact that she went looking for the meeting is being interpreted by some Washington insiders as a signal that President Obama does in fact plan to nominate Rice to be his Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton.
The three senators have been critical of Rice for going on the Sunday morning talk shows in September and telling the world that the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens, were part of the protest against the anti-Muslim film and not a planned terrorist attack, as was later disclosed. While the administration and even disgraced former CIA director David Petraeus stress that Rice as merely using the CIA talking points she had been given, Republicans have accused her of intentionally misleading the public. Ninety-seven Republicans in the House even signed a letter to Obama telling him they opposed the nomination of Rice as Secretary of State—even though the president hasn’t yet nominated her.
Some have suggested that 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.
Some analysts claim the Republican maneuvers have cleverly boxed the president into a corner on Rice because he will get criticism either way he goes—if he doesn’t nominate her, it will look like he cowed to the Republicans and back off, as many liberals have accused him of doing in the past. If he does nominate Rice, then he may be using up much of his political capital so early in his second term with a bruising nomination fight in the Senate.
But it also possible that Obama knows whatever move he makes on practically any decision will get attacked by someone on the left or the right. Coupled with the president’s claim—supported by his aides—that he doesn’t read the opinion pages or listen to the television talking heads, perhaps he may just do what he actually wants to do with the Secretary of State position without worrying about the Republican opposition. A long-lasting lesson from his first term might be that if he were to try to gauge the Republican response before he makes a move, he would be forever paralyzed. By now, surely he has accepted this Washington reality: Republicans will oppose him and attack him no matter what he does.