Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., isn’t going anywhere but up. That’s the message President Barack Obama will be sending to congressional Republicans, her fierce adversaries, later Wednesday when he is expected to promote her to the post of national security adviser.
The current adviser Tom Donilon’s expected resignation has come. And, in true Obama fashion, another confidante will take over the role. The problem -- if you can call it that -- is that Rice is a controversial figure in the mind of Republicans, especially those in the Senate, who have been attacking her ever since she unwittingly relayed inaccurate information about the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last September. Using intelligence talking points after the Sept. 11 assault, Rice told the American public on national television that the incident, which killed four Americans, resulted from a spontaneous attack. It was later proven to be the work of terrorists.
One might recall that Rice was a top candidate for secretary of state but withdrew her name from consideration after a Republican firestorm of criticism over Benghazi. Republicans have not let go of that and congressional hearings and investigations into what happened on that day aren't done yet. But Rice doesn’t need Senate confirmation for her new post. And therefore, Republicans may be the ones who have a problem: They can’t stop Susan Rice.
“Republicans can freak out as much as they want, but they can’t do anything about it,” Paul Light, a professor of public service at NYU and expert on presidential appointments, said.
The administration played it carefully. The White House knew that to put Rice in a position that required Senate confirmation would be a dead end. But was this a good move?
“I don’t know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing,” Light said. “People say, ‘Oh my goodness, he really respects her and they get along really well and she is really smart.’ Those are all true.”
“The head of the national security staff is very, very important and it’s no shocker that he would try to find a place to put her,” Light added. “It’s a little bit in the face of Republicans who opposed her. … They will always criticize her, but the president is entitled to a national security adviser of his choice. I don’t see anything whatsoever here that would derail her. It’s his call.”