I’ll See Your Rice and Raise You One Bolton

Yesterday UN Ambassador Susan Rice sent a letter to President Obama.  In her letter, Rice asked that her name not be considered as a possible Secretary of State replacing Hillary Clinton.  She said her opinion was that the confirmation process would be too disruptive and get in the way of important government work.  A quiet sigh of relief spread through out Washington.

Ambassador Rice has been the target of a number to GOP Senators, John McCain and Lindsay Graham being the two most prominent.  Their public beef was a television interview where Rice, speaking from White House approved talking points, said the Benghazi tragedy resulted from a protest that got out of control.  Why the Republicans were upset is still not clear.  Some say they smelled Rice parroting rhetoric favorable to the Obama campaign.  Clearly, with hindsight, one can see Libya and Benghazi played no role in the election.

Far more likely an explanation is that two marginalized Senators saw a way to recreate an image of importance they once held.  It was certainly a strange opposition given that Susan Rice had not been nominated.

This incident refreshes ones memory of the first Rice, Condoleezza Rice.  She was the National Security Advisor for George W Bush.  On her watch, 9/11 took place.  If that was not enough, she was part of the White House advisors who pushed Secretary of State Colin Powell to speak before the UN of “proof” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.  Regardless, Condi was nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State in Bush’s second term.

Condoleezza Rice from all accounts is (and was) a competent and decent person.  Her political thinking while tilting right was still reasonably moderate.  She was, however, connected with two significant errors and yet her nomination sailed through the Senate.

And then there was (and might have been in a Romney Administration) another Secretary of State hopeful, former UN Ambassador John Bolton.  Bolton is cut from different cloth.  He is a through and through ideologue.

Bolton was an unapologetic supporter of the Iraq invasion and occupation.  His feisty and wrong headed approach encountered strong Democratic opposition when President Bush submitted Bolton’s name for UN Ambassador.  Only a recess appointment could get Bolton the job.

So fast forward to 2012.  President Obama has won a convincing reelection and is facing the pending resignation of Hillary Clinton.  Rumors had it that on the short list was Susan Rice.  McCain and Graham have lost their principled credibility by having ducked major issues of conscience and instead bowed to the extreme right.   Here was a chance to parlay opposition to the Administration’s comfort in reigning in the defense industry with a little political payback.

Bingo, Susan Rice is unacceptable.

There is of course no way to know what type of Secretary of State Susan Rice might have been.  If she does get nominated sometime in the future, world conditions will be different and judging her performance then will not directly prove or disprove her fitness today.

Senator John Kerry is also rumored to be on the short list.  Pundits say his nomination will be quickly approved.  Many republicans already are speaking out in his support.

I wonder what Scott Brown thinks?

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