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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. (United Nations photo)
Ten days ago in "Why to Say No to Susan Rice," I tried to delve beneath the political posturing to show that President Barack Obama would be making another avoidable personnel mistake if he nominates Susan Rice, presently U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be Secretary of State.
Yet, to avoid one more of these unforced personnel errors, Obama must overcome his pathological need to surround himself with advisers of thoroughbred Establishment pedigree. He might instead try the novel approach of picking someone possessing integrity and courage. Of course, that would disqualify pretty much everyone with Establishment pedigrees since very few individuals have displayed honorable qualities over the past few decades, spoken truth to power and kept their inside-the-Beltway credentials.
For her part, Susan Rice could be a case study in how an ambitious foreign policy expert maneuvers within the boundaries of Washington's permissible thought, no matter how wrongheaded the conventional wisdom might be. Through her careful positioning on Iraq and other war policies, she maintained her Establishment credentials but didn't distinguish herself as a Profile in Courage. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Why to Say No to Susan Rice,"]
True, Rice is not alone in this craven behavior. If she were to become Secretary of State, she would be following the well-worn path of her immediate predecessors, the likes of Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, etc.
Hillary Clinton not only voted for the Iraq War a decade ago but keeps hyping the "threat" from Iran today. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were lead singers in the chorus of lies and deceptions that serenaded us into the Iraq invasion. Madeleine Albright famously judged that economic sanctions killings hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children were "worth it." In scouring Susan Rice's public record, it is hard to find examples of her publicly challenging these Establishment views no matter how misguided, immoral, criminal or dishonest.
Indeed, at no time in my 50 years in Washington has lying been more accepted as de rigueur, not just tolerated as some necessary evil but embraced as a prerequisite for ascending the ladder of success and "esteem." When in recent years has shaving the truth or outright lying done real harm to the reputation of an American diplomat or Secretary of State?
Mark Twain's old observation could be applied to this modern reality in spades. He described diplomacy as "the art of nearly deceiving all your friends, but not quite deceiving all your enemies."
Yet, rather than challenging Susan Rice's dubious record on the war in Iraq and other real tests of her judgment, Republicans have gone after Susan Rice for her recitation of inaccurate CIA "talking points" when she appeared on the Sunday talk shows after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. That assault left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
Responding to the intense Republican criticism of Rice's TV performance, Obama accused Republican senators of trying to "besmirch" Rice's reputation. However, when it comes to Susan Rice, Republicans had no need to gin up a scandal about her clueless presentation on the Sunday talk shows.
She has done an excellent job of besmirching herself -- by what she did and did not do -- during her work in the White House and as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa under President Bill Clinton, during her sojourn in the private sector when George W. Bush was president, and at the U.N. under Obama.
Rice has an unenviable record, especially in what has been her specialty, African affairs. Like the secretaries of state she hopes to follow, Rice suffers from Compassion Deficit Disorder (CDD), especially it seems in places like Rwanda, Ethiopia and Congo.
After I was asked late Tuesday evening to appear early Wednesday on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, I felt a need to dig deeper into Rice's record. A half-hour of Googling yielded the realization (surprise, surprise) that if one relies on the Establishment media, it is difficult to know much about the role she has played in very significant events -- especially in U.S. policy toward Africa. I didn't know the half of it.
Instead of critical examinations into her role as a reliable foot soldier in recent marches of folly, the mainstream media has mostly defended Susan Rice, with her supporters jumping to the conclusion that her travails are the result of sexism and/or racism. Also afoot has been the proverbial "damning with faint praise."
The Washington Post editorial section on Nov. 23 echoed President Obama's claim nine days earlier that Rice "had nothing to do with Benghazi," which might be true in the narrow sense regarding the events of last Sept. 11. The larger truth, however, is that by virtually all accounts she was in the forefront of those misguided policymakers advocating last year's excellent adventure in Libya which has left chaos and a strengthened "affiliate" of al-Qaeda in its wake.
In a trivial but nonetheless instructive example of the Post's determination to leave no stone unturned, the editors on Nov. 27 ran a letter of recommendation from Rice's high-school history teacher at Washington's elite National Cathedral School. The letter made it sound like Susan Rice were applying to Stanford all over again. The teacher, John Wood, gave her high marks for "superb essays" and excellent performance in an Advanced Placement course, and added that her "social skills" were exemplary.