WASHINGTON (AP) - Once seemingly destined to become secretary of state, Susan Rice now holds a lower-profile job at the White House, juggling global crises for the president and trying to ensure his foreign policy priorities don’t fall by the wayside in a storm of overseas problems.
She shows no bitterness about the turn of events that short circuited her diplomatic trajectory. As President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, she commands a suite of offices steps from the Oval Office and has more daily access to him than does Secretary of State John Kerry.
These days, Rice has been keeping a list of issues at risk of being ignored: a trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations, development projects in Africa, protecting gay rights overseas.
She’s sent the list around to some of those on the 400-person National Security Council staff she oversees. She holds weekend meetings when necessary to keep tabs on issues that may have gotten overshadowed by Mideast instability or Russia’s threatening moves in Ukraine.
“It is a very important part of my job, particularly at this stage in the president’s tenure, to not just be fighting fires and the headlines, which to some extent is unavoidable, but to make sure that the things he cares about - his legacy interests, issues, accomplishments - are nurtured and carried into the end zone,” Rice said in an interview. “We are trying to put points on the board.”
Hours after the Rose Garden ceremony, the first leaks from Edward Snowden were published online, sparking a months-long review of the government’s spy practices and angering U.S. allies caught up in the sweeping surveillance operations.
There’s been little respite since, often throwing the White House into a reactive posture.
The week Rice officially took over as national security adviser, Egypt’s military ousted the country’s first democratically elected president. That crisis was quickly overshadowed by a Syrian chemical weapons attack and the White House’s rush toward a military strike that ultimately was scuttled.
Now it’s the instability in Ukraine that has consumed much of the foreign policy focus in the White House.
“I don’t have the luxury of saying, I’m going to do these three things and I’m going to put most of my eggs in these baskets,” Rice said, adding that when it comes to the foreign policy decision-making process, “I’ve got to run the whole show.”
For many, Rice remains best known for her role in the controversy surrounding the deadly 2012 attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.