Monday, November 19, 2012

Who Is Susan Rice?

Susan Rice has a bachelor's degree in history from Stanford, and doctorate in international relations from University of Oxford, which she earned as a Rhodes Scholar. She is a native of Washington, DC, and turned 48 on November 17 (interestingly Condoleeza Rice, no relation, turned 58 over the weekend - her birthday is November 14 - making both Rices scorpios).

Susan Rice has held many positions in government under democratic administrations. She is a protege of Madeleine Albright who recommended her for assistant secretary of state for African affairs. (Interestingly, one of Condoleeza Rice's most important influence's was Professor Josef Korbel, Madeleine Albright's father, when she studied at the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies. Korbel was the founder of the prestigious school. Korbel fled the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and was granted political asylum in the United States).

Among the positions held by Susan Rice are the National Security Council's director for international organizations and peacekeeping in 1993. In 1995 she moved to special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs. In 1997 she became the assistant secretary for African affairs. In 2002 she left government to be a fellow at the Brookings Institute, but returned in 2008 as presidential candidate Barack Obama's senior foreign policy advisor, and then to U.N. Ambassador in 2009. During the time that Rice held these positions, she was frequently the lead diplomat during troubling world events - Rwanda genocide in 1994, Tanzania and Kenyan embassy bombings in 1998, where she became well acquainted with the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

Rice has her defenders, most notably President Obama in last week's press conference, where he told Senators Graham and McCain to "go after me" instead of Rice. But she does have her detractors:
Rice has managed to make an impressive array of enemies — on Capitol Hill, in Foggy Bottom and abroad. Particularly in comparison with the other person often mentioned for the job, Sen. John Kerry, she can be a most undiplomatic diplomat, and there likely aren’t enough Republican or Democratic votes in the Senate to confirm her.
Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.
Among those she has insulted is the woman she would replace at State. Rice was one of the first former Clinton administration officials to defect to Obama’s primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Rice condemned Clinton’s Iraq and Iran positions, asking for an “explanation of how and why she got those critical judgments wrong.”
Rice’s put-down of Clinton was tame compared with her portrayal of McCain during 2008, which no doubt contributes to McCain’s hostility toward her today. She mocked McCain’s trip to Iraq (“strolling around the market in a flak jacket”), called his policies “reckless” and said “his tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s dangerous.”
It was Rice’s own shoot-first tendency that caused her to be benched as a spokesman for the Obama campaign for a time in 2008. She unnerved European allies when she denounced as “counterproductive” and “self-defeating” the U.N. policy that Iran suspend its nuclear program before talks can begin. She criticized President George W. Bush and McCain because they “insisted” on it. But, as The Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out at the time, European diplomats were rattled by such remarks because the precondition was their idea.
Rice’s pugilism provoked the Russians to weigh in this week in opposition to her nomination as secretary of state. The Russian business daily Kommersant quoted an anonymous Russian foreign ministry official as saying that Rice, who quarreled with Russia over Syria, is “too ambitious and aggressive,” and her appointment would make it “more difficult for Moscow to work with Washington.”
Compared with this, the flap over Libya is relatively minor — but revealing. It’s true that, in her much-criticized TV performance, she was reciting talking points given to her by the intelligence agencies. But that’s the trouble. Rice stuck with her points even though they had been contradicted by the president of the Libyan National Assembly, who, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” just before Rice, said there was “no doubt” that the attack on Americans in Benghazi “was preplanned.” Rice rebutted the Libyan official, arguing — falsely, it turned out — that there was no evidence of such planning.
Rice may lack the diplomacy required of a top diplomat, such as Secretary of State, but more importantly is the question of why she so adamently stuck with the story of the video being the spark for the Benghazi attack. Did she knowingly agree to be the face of the administration in misleading the public, or was she a dupe? There is no favorable way to answer that question.

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