The choice of a successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state has turned into an unexpectedly nasty fight that is fraught with unexpected political peril for President Barack Obama.
But the ire he’d best concern himself with could come from his most loyal base should he abandon his plan to nominate Susan Rice as the successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State.
African-Americans came out in record numbers to make history by sending him to the White House in 2008. The president’s most devoted constituency and fiercest supporters were admittedly disappointed they didn’t see more done specifically on their behalf over the last four years, but nonetheless turned out in bunches anyway just a few weeks ago to make sure Obama won a second term.
The thinking was that Obama assuaged the concerns of every other group but African-Americans during his first term. Now free of election concerns, the black community eagerly awaited a second term in the hopes that the president would finally address some of their needs.
They did their part and twice delivered the votes he so desperately needed to win two presidential elections. Now they figured it was time for Obama to hold up his end of the bargain
Commencing his second term by lacking the political will to fight for an intelligent, black female nominee in the face of ridiculously unfair and partisan criticisms by salty, old, white Republicans still bitter about their election beat down is hardly what African-Americans had in mind
Yes, such a fight would likely cost the White House valuable goodwill with Republicans. But to not do so would cost Obama even more from those who played a major role in putting him there in the first place.
The president likely assumed the opposition to his United Nations Ambassador would simply taper off after the election. It didn’t, so he will need to tread carefully now.
Rice did not win any public GOP support after meeting with two Republican senators Wednesday, her second day of unusual face-to-face sessions intended to blunt critiques of her role in explaining the fatal Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya.
Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey O. Graham and Kelly Ayotte said they were not satisfied after their Tuesday meeting with Rice about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi.
Things continued badly on Wednesday as even moderate Republican and one-time Rice supporter Sen. Susan Collins declined to offer her backing after their 75-minute private session Wednesday.
“I still have many questions that remain unanswered,” said Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is investigating the Libya attack.
Rice also met with Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As in the meetings she had Tuesday, Rice parsed comments she made on television five days after the attack on a diplomatic post and CIA headquarters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
Collins told reporters she was “troubled” that Rice had “decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election campaign” by appearing on five political talk shows to present the administration’s position.
Speaking later on MSNBC, Collins said Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) would make an excellent secretary of state and would be easily confirmed. Kerry is known to want the post, but has been seen as less likely than Rice to be picked.
Corker also declined to say whether he would vote to confirm Rice.
Obama has not told even close aides whether he will select Rice, according to a senior White House official. In a show of support, however, she was present Wednesday during Obama’s first full Cabinet meeting since the election. The president responded to a question about whether lawmakers are “being fair” to Rice by complimenting her as “extraordinary.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of the job that she’s done,” he said.
A White House official and Democratic aides said they think that Rice could win Senate confirmation for the top diplomatic job if Obama nominated her.
But with lawmakers potentially facing difficult votes on taxes or entitlements, confirmation could come at a high political cost for Obama and vulnerable Democrats facing reelection in 2014.
On Wednesday, some Democrats came to Rice’s defense.
“Ambassador Rice is clearly a very strong candidate, and if nominated, I hope we can come together and move the confirmation hearings along swiftly and get past the misguided partisan political attacks on her reputation,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).
Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) said Rice’s GOP accusers are “horribly unfair” and completely wrong to accuse her of shading intelligence about the attack to suit political ends.
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Wednesday that his opposition to Rice is based on her U.N. tenure and the Benghazi issue, which he said “may end up being the biggest cover-up that we’ve ever experienced in history.”
The GOP clearly wants a fight. African-Americans would like nothing better than to see President Obama oblige them.