Polarizing pick: Obama tabs Rice for top security post; Samantha Power to U.N.
To replace Mrs. Rice as U.N. ambassador, Mr. Obama also nominated former aide Samantha Power, who once referred to Hillary Rodham Clinton as a “monster” during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries and analogized U.S. foreign policy to that of Nazi Germany in calling for a “mea culpa” approach to foreign policy.
Mrs. Rice, criticized roundly for portraying the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, as a mob protest, is to replace National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon, who is retiring after more than four years in the job.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that she’ll be back at my side and leading my national security team in my second term,” Mr. Obama said. “Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership.”
Mrs. Rice told the president she was “deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me.”
“I look forward to continuing to serve on your national security team to keep our nation strong and safe,” she said.
The post of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation, although it is certain to raise the ire of congressional Republicans, with whom the president has been engaged in a “charm offensive.”
Mrs. Rice became a target of Republicans in the wake of the September terrorist attacks on a diplomatic post that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens. In the midst of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, Mrs. Rice went on a series of TV talk shows to describe the attacks as a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S.
Subsequent investigations have shown that the attack was a deliberate assault carried out by groups affiliated with al Qaeda. Administration emails obtained by congressional investigators show that the State Department and other administration officials were involved in scrubbing references to terrorism in the “talking points” that were used by Mrs. Rice and others in the days immediately after the assault.
James Carafano, a national-security analyst at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, said the choice of Mrs. Rice is proof that Mr. Obama wants to continue his foreign-policy doctrine of “soft power.”
“You’re getting a personification of the Obama doctrine — we’re going to rely on ‘soft power,’ we’re going to talk to our enemies, we’re going to outsource everything to the U.N.,” Mr. Carafano said. “This is just a reaffirmation of ‘we’re going to do more of that.’ What’s disturbing about this most of all is much larger than Susan Rice’s person, because she’s just really emblematic of all that.”
Mr. Obama last fall was considering Mrs. Rice as a possible replacement for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned that they would block her appointment.
The Republicans’ opposition drew an angry response from Mr. Obama after his re-election, when he came to Mrs. Rice’s defense.
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