Susan Rice won’t pursue Secretary of State post

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice. SOURCE: United Nations / Mark Garten

ANALYSIS:

United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice today withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State, citing the political fallout from her earlier press statements attributing the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya to a controversial anti-Islam video.

“Those of you who know me know that I’m a fighter, but not at the cost of what’s right for our country,” Rice wrote on Twitter. “I don’t do this work for me. I do it because I believe in President Obama’s approach to the world, and I want to get things done.”

Rice’s decision was announced by the White House. In a written statement, President Barack Obama praised Rice for her “indispensable role in advancing America’s interests” worldwide.

“Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant,” Obama said. “While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”

Rice will stay on as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – a post she has held since she was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

Rice’s comments on the Benghazi consulate attack

Rice was considered one of the front-runners to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will be stepping down after this year.

However, Rice’s nomination prospect was jeopardized by her appearance on the several major television news outlets days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The Sept. 11th attack killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.

At the time, Rice characterized the Benghazi attack as the escalation of a “spontaneous” protest against a controversial YouTube video that denigrated Islam’s prophet Muhammad. The video “Innocence of Muslims”, which was filmed in the United States, sparked massive protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in mid-September.

“…Soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that– in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent,” Rice told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer on “Face The Nation” on Sept. 16. “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”

Rice made those statements based on the unclassified talking points signed off by the U.S. intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency. Those unclassified talking points did not reference Al Qaeda or terrorism but did reference extremists.

Political fallout

Rice’s statements were strongly criticized by Republicans, who were seeking to blame the Obama administration for what they deemed as an intelligence failure during the final weeks of the election campaign.

Among Rice’s most vocal critics are Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.).

“How could she say 5 days later definitively there is no evidence of a coordinated Al Qaeda attack when there’s a rain of evidence?

…This is about the role she played around 4 dead Americans when it seems to be the story coming out of the administration – and she’s the foreperson – is so disconnected to reality,” said Graham. “I don’t trust her. And the reason I don’t trust her is because I think she knew better and if she didn’t know better, she shouldn’t be the voice of America.”

McCain called Rice’s statement “not too bright” and stated that she was “not qualified” to be Secretary of State.

The Republican lawmakers’ statements suggested that they would filibuster Rice’s nomination.

Three weeks ago, Rice tried to make amends with her detractors, meeting with McCain, Graham, and Ayotte to explain her comments on Sept. 16. By most accounts, the meeting did not go well.

At a press conference on Nov. 27th, McCain, Graham, and Ayotte declared that they were “disturbed” and “troubled” by the explanation they heard from Rice and Acting CIA Director Michael Morell.

“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get concerning evidence that’s overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate, the tragic deaths of four brave Americans, and whether Ambassador Rice was prepared or informed sufficiently in order to give the American people the correction depiction of the events that took place,” McCain told reporters. “It was clear that the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration in Tripoli by a hateful video.”

U.S. intelligence community’s assessment on the Benghazi attack

So far, U.S. intelligence officials have described the consulate assault as an “opportunistic” terrorist attack and suggested that elements of Al Qaeda in North Africa may have been involved.

Read more: U.S. counter-terrorism official calls Benghazi consulate assault an ‘opportunistic’ terrorist attack

“The facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack,” said Matthew Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). “The [Benghazi] attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours…It appears that individuals who are certainly well-armed seized on the opportunity presented as the event unfolded that evening into the morning hours of Sept. 12.”

Last month, former Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus testified that the agency believed the Benghazi consulate attack was the work of terrorists of possible Al Qaeda links within the first 24 hours.

Read more: Secretary of State Clinton hints Benghazi attack might be linked to Al Qaeda in North Africa

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-M.D.), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, maintained that the CIA’s early assessment doesn’t contradict the administration’s public statements describing the attack as “spontaneous” and “opportunistic.”

Ruppersberger pointed out that the Benghazi assault lasted for hours and took place two different locations: the main consulate building and the consulate annex about a mile away.

“As far as the film is concerned, the first incident was a lot different than the second incident in the annex. That is what the difference,” he said.

Ruppersberger said the first attack on the consulate did not appear to be well-organized.

“When you look and see what was there, you had individuals coming into the compound who were looting. There was no command and control evaluating where we’re going to go, how we’re going to go. But there also were people that were attacking and putting buildings on fire,” he explained. “But the second incident – that was entirely different. That was well-organized, [you can see] command and control, and that people who had experience in attacking and are Al Qaeda and other extremists. They knew how to shoot mortars and hit targets.”

 

Susan Rice’s background

  • 2009 – present: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
  • 2002 – 2009: Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute
  • 1997 – 2001: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
  • 1995 – 1997: Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council
  • 1993 – 1995: Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping on the National Security Council
  • Received her Master’s degree and Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford University
  • Received her B.A. degree in History from Stanford University
  • Rhode Scholar
  • Truman Scholar

 

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2 Comments on “Susan Rice won’t pursue Secretary of State post

  1. Pingback: List of American casualties & injuries in the attacks against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Summary of the State Department's Accountability Review Board findings on the Benghazi consulate attack | What The Folly?!

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