Happy surprise: I have something good to say about President Obama!
I like it that he stood loyally behind Susan Rice, his choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. After a vicious smear campaign by Republicans, Ms. Rice today bowed out gracefully. There’s always the possibility that President Obama asked her to do so, but I doubt it. As soon as the attacks against her began, he told her attackers, openly and publicly, that if they wanted to go after someone “They should go after me.” Those of us who recall the way Bill Clinton handled similar campaigns against women in his administration, most notably Jocelyn Elders and Lani Guinier, can’t help but note the difference.
What did Ms. Rice do to merit the attacks on her? Apparently she reported the violent events that occurred at Benghazi, Libya, which included the murder of an American ambassador and others, the way they’d been told to her. Days and weeks later, as the story unfolded, the truth turned out to be somewhat different than these reports, and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte seized on the discrepancies: they went wild and crazy, and portrayed Ms. Rice as a liar involved in a massive cover-up. As if nobody in government ever relied on CIA reports before! Hah!
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein defended Rice’s remarks. “They were unclassified talking points at a very early stage…to say that she is unqualified to be secretary of state, I think, is a mistake. And the way it keeps going, it’s almost as if the intent is to assassinate her character.”
The real truth is, I suspect, both simpler and sneakier. The Republican Senators are pushing John Kerry as their choice for Secretary of State–and since when did the GOP have such great love for John Kerry? They don’t. What they love is his seat in the Senate. They look at him sitting in it and picture one of their own–specifically Scott Brown, who just lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren–taking his place. In politics there’s always a story behind the story behind the story, and rarely has it anything to do with what’s best for the country, the people, Susan Rice, President Obama, or, most significantly, the rest of the planet.
I think Susan Rice would do better in the position than John Kerry. I think this because she is a woman. I know, I know: I’ll be blasted for saying this–but when it comes to the Secretary of State, a person whose success depends on cultivating positive relationships with people from all kinds of backgrounds, I do believe that a woman, particularly a brown woman, has an advantage over a white man—especially one, like Kerry, of the buttoned-down, straight-on-every-level variety. To further explain: my friend Jennifer, a pale-skinned blonde beauty, used to say she wished she were darker and “more ethnic looking” so she could move easily through the world, most of which is populated, in general, by darker shades of people. She used to point to olive-skinned brunettes and say they would be accepted on sight all over the world.
As things turned out, Jennifer went all over Central America developing and working in women’s health clinics. Still, she had a point. I’m not saying Susan Rice would outdo John Kerry simply by virtue of being female; how either one of them would do in the job is completely unknown. However, Rice does have that initial advantage. In my opinion. Okay, go ahead, blast me. I stand by my story.
Unfortunately, the Republicans have something else in mind, and they’ll do almost anything to get it. By taking herself out of the running, Ms. Rice has shown grace and grit. By defending her from start to finish, President Obama has shown great integrity. There’s just no substitute for that kind of loyalty. Bravo Mr. President!
(For a stronger indictment of the GOP in this matter, read Madeleine Albright’s article, listed below.)
- Madeleine Albright On Susan Rice’s Withdrawal: ‘It’s Appalling’ (huffingtonpost.com)