The public relations campaign over UN Ambassador Susan Rice possibly replacing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State may be taking a turn in Rice’s favor as some powerful defenders have come out for Rice, with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin saying today that he believed she would win approval by the Senate—if President Obama nominates her.
Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, made his comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he predicted that she would be able to get the nomination because all the Democrats and some Republicans would vote in favor of her—despite the vocal attack against her by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and a coalition of 97 House Republicans sending a letter to Obama saying they opposed her nomination (though members of the House don’t get a vote on presidential cabinet nominees).
Durbin called Rice an “extraordinary person” and said, “Some of the criticisms against her have been unwarranted.”
Meanwhile several prominent Jewish leaders have expressed their support for Rice, saying she has long been a strong and vigorous defender of Israel.
“She has proven herself as an ardent defender of major Israeli positions in an unfriendly forum,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, told the Jerusalem Post. “And I’m more comfortable with the person I know than the person I don’t know. She is close to the president and that’s important in that position if you have someone you can relate to and understands us.”
A leading U.S. diplomat, John Prendergast, who worked for Presidents Clinton and Bush, penned a forceful defense of Rice for Politico, calling her “a consummate diplomat who fought fiercely for American interests and who promoted a global vision of U.S. partnership with Africa that benefited real people on both sides of the ocean.”
“I can say from personal experience that the idea that Susan Rice was more of an administration loyalist than a consummate diplomat is preposterous,” Prendergast wrote. “When I first set foot in the White House at the end of 1996, with Rice as Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council, I found her leading a dynamic policy process that sought to redefine America’s relationship with Africa in a way that a lifelong Africanist like me didn’t think was possible. Rice worked tirelessly to build new opportunities for two-way trade and investment between the U.S. and Africa that led to more growth and jobs on both sides of the ocean. She helped expand a truly bipartisan collection of influential senators and House members who prioritized partnering with Africa over patronizing it.”
In fact, Prendergast said he saw Rice, while Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, work tirelessly to help forge a peace in the Ethiopia/Eritrea conflict that has lasted for a dozen years. And he said he and his travel partner, movie star George Clooney, were told over and over by the South Sudanese people last year that Susan Rice was the one person most responsible for the “peaceful birth” of South Sudan, the world’s newest country.
“The truth has become unrecognizable in the fog of yet another Washington war,” Prendergast wrote. “Hopefully the facts will surface and the record will become clear.”
Up to this point, much of Rice’s extraordinarily distinguished career has been boiled down to one fateful day on Sunday morning television in September, when she used CIA talking points to mischaracterize the nature of the threat in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. But as profiles and defenses of Rice are released, a much more nuanced portrait of her has begun to emerge that thoroughly debunks McCain’s descriptions of her as “incompetent.”