Rice Goes Away (From State, At Least), But Not Quietly

So the big news this afternoon is that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn from consideration to become Secretary of State, via a letter to the president that cited the likelihood of a “lengthy, disruptive and costly” confirmation process if she were nominated.

This not-so-subtle reference to the campaign of demonization against Rice being led by Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham is making the political implications of the withdrawal a much more prominent issue than the gig itself. Are Rice and Obama (assuming he had some role in this decision) rewarding bad behavior and guaranteeing its perpetuation? Is Graham going to carry Rice’s letter around the more atavistic precincts of South Carolina as a magic amulet against a right-wing primary challenge in 2012? Was this whole exercise a GOP plot to get John Kerry appointed to State so that Scott Brown can return to the Senate? Will the administration now be constrained to find a woman and/or minority member for the job?

I dunno. The only thing that’s clear to me is that Obama and/or Rice do indeed want to make a fight over this; otherwise, Obama would have chosen Kerry or someone else without the public suggestion that his first choice was taken off the table by Republican nastiness (it’s possible Rice went public without the White House’s approval, but her very close relationship with Obama, and her continuing high position in the administration, make that scenario unlikely); it’s not as though Rice is or ever has been the unanimous favorite among Democratic foreign policy types.

Rice, of course, may just be receiving the courtesy of making the first move to show her loyalty to Obama and the country, while making her tormenters look like the petty and bullying pols they actually are. But you’d have to figure there will be some additional thundering from the Oval Office on the subject before Obama moves on.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.