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Media Mystify Susan Rice

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UN Ambassador Susan Rice by New Yorker

   By William Boardman Email address removed

In discussions about UN Ambassador Susan Rice these days, the elephant in the room is not a Republican, it's a conflict of interest.  But you'd hardly know that from most of the media coverage, which is pretty much all Republicans all the time. 

Susan Rice, who was never nominated to be Secretary of State, formally withdrew her name from consideration on December 13 in a friendly media appearance on NBC with Brian Williams, who did not question her outside the context of her statement: that she was withdrawing from the nomination she didn't have in order to save the country from an ugly confirmation fight in the Senate. 

Republican theatrics was the sole explanation for Rice's withdrawal offered by literally dozens of perfectly competent reporters across the media spectrum, without reference to her financial holdings in the oil industry and increasing criticism of her record with African dictators and a hawkish willingness to take the country to war. 

There's little doubt that Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) were ready to lead their colleagues in a continuation of the public pillorying they had been putting Rice through since September, when Rice went on five Sunday morning TV shows to pitch the administration's early version of what happened in Benghazi on September 11, when a terrorist attack coincided with an on-going CIA operation that was then still covert. 

No wonder, under those awkward circumstances, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA head David Petreaus, White House terrorism czar John Brennan, and other more knowledgeable administration spokespersons were all suddenly "unavailable."   And no wonder, under those awkward circumstances, that Susan Rice was given  intelligence community talking points that were less than models of clarity and precision.  

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   If No One Mentions It, Does It Still Exist?

The dominant media narrative now is that Rice's un-nomination was undone by Republican wrath, while few mention increased criticism of her record and fewer still note that she has yet to acknowledge, never mind cure a glaring potential conflict of interest she would have had as Secretary of State, and still has as UN Ambassador -- namely her and her husband's multi-million dollar holdings in Canadian firms that own or have interests in the Keystone XL pipeline that will, if built, bring toxic Canadian tar sands oil across America to the Gulf Coast to be shipped overseas. 

Almost a year ago, President Obama postponed the decision to allow the pipeline to cross into the United States, but his administration has indicated that a decision, which rests officially with the Secretary of State, will be made in early 2013. 

Since financial disclosure statements are allowed to be quite imprecise, we know only that Rice has reported a personal net worth of somewhere between $23. 5 and $43.5 million, of which about one third, or $8 million-plus, is invested in the oil industry.  With a large personal stake in TransCanada, the corporation that owns and is building the pipeline, Susan Rice as secretary of state approving the pipeline would also enrich herself significantly.    Against that, she would have to weigh arguments that approving the pipeline would have lethally catastrophic consequences for millions of people over the next century -- or as NASA scientist James Hansen put it some months ago, approval of the Keystone pipeline will be "game over for the climate." 

Even less coverage has been given to the assessment that those same disclosure documents show that Rice's holdings include companies doing business with Cuba and Iran, despite U.S. sanctions against both countries. 

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Even though the financial disclosure statements are public documents, Susan Rice's wealth didn't become an issue until it was first reported on November 28 by  Even then most media -- and most Republicans -- ignored the issue.   The New York Times covered it in a blog, where Dan Frosch noted that:

According to the  United States Office of Government Ethics , federal law requires executive branch employees to be recused from matters "if it would have a direct and predictable effect on the employee's own financial interests or on certain financial interests that are treated as the employee's own."


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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)

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