A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Wednesday that UN ambassador Susan Rice is to take the top national job, triggering speculation that the Obama administration is about to make some foreign policy changes. The appointment was officially announced by the President this afternoon in what is being billed as a shake-up. This personnel change, however, has been anticipated for some time. Announcing the appointment, the President said “I am thrilled that she’ll be back at my side leading my national security team in my second term.”
Current national security adviser Tom Donilon is expected to continue in the position until early July. His departure has been anticipated for some time. President Obama has nominated former human rights activist Samantha Powers to replace Rice as ambassador to the United Nations.
Rice was originally slated to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, but she withdrew her candidacy after it became clear that she had repeatedly made false statements, regarding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Following that attack, which took place on September 11th, 2012 and claimed the lives of four Americans, including the ambassador, the administration insisted that an anti-Muslim video on YouTube had provoked a spontaneous demonstration outside the U.S. consulate. The situation then escalated and turned deadly. It soon emerged that no such demonstration had taken place and that the consulate was, in fact, the target of a coordinated terrorist attack. In addition, The President, along with then secretary of state Clinton and defense secretary Leon Panetta, had been aware of the unfolding incident – which lasted for several hours – and made no effort to rescue the ambassador or the other Americans on the ground.
In an attempt to cover up this negligence, both Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice insisted that the attack was the result of outrage sparked by a video.
Susan Rice will face no hurdles in taking the top national security job; the position of White House national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. The news drew a lukewarm response from Republicans, who were highly critical of Rice’s role in the Benghazi cover-up. Republican Senator John McCain tweeted that, while not pleased with the selection, he would “make every effort to work with her.”
Rice, 48, is a close confidante of President Obama’s. She is the first black woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where she earned a reputation as a tough and outspoken diplomat. She has been described by some diplomats as overbearing at times, but possessing a good sense of humor. Aaron David Miller, a foreign policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said of Rice “She’s very direct, very outspoken, very tough but extremely skilled and confident, which makes her formidable.” He added “The fact that she’s close to the President makes her extremely formidable.”
Rice was born in Washington D.C. and is a graduate of both Stanford University and Oxford University. She became UN ambassador in 2009.
When Rice takes over as the President’s top national security adviser, it is anticipated that she will continue to reinforce his reluctance to take a more direct role in supporting the Syrian uprising. Rice is known to be very cautious, regarding the idea of arming the rebels in Syria. How much her appointment will change the administration’s foreign policy agenda remains to be seen.
Written by Graham J Noble