SUSAN RICE TO THE U.N.?…. I’d hoped Susan Rice would have a prominent role in the Obama White House, but I’m also quite confident that she would represent the nation well at the United Nations.

ABC News has learned that Dr. Susan Rice has emerged as the leading candidate to be President-elect Obama’s nominee as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Neither Dr. Rice nor the Obama Transition Team had any comment. The usual caveats apply — nothing is yet a done deal, nothing has been officially offered or accepted, national security team announcements will not come until after Thanksgiving.

Dr. Rice, a member of President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council and a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was involved in President-elect Obama’s campaign as a senior foreign policy adviser.

The former Rhodes Scholar in 2000 received the National Security Council’s Samuel Nelson Drew Memorial Award for distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between nations, and U.S. security policy for global peace.

This is, depending on one’s perspective, a good-news/bad-news situation.

The good news is, Susan Rice is brilliant and talented, and will certainly improve our reputation at the U.N. We can use the boost — America’s standing at Turtle Bay has faltered badly under Bush, most notably during John Bolton’s tenure. What’s more, having a close Obama ally as the ambassador signals to the U.N. a new found respect for the institution’s significance. That Rice is an expert on policy towards Africa, and the Security Council spends most of its time addressing issues on the continent, doesn’t hurt. Spencer Ackerman noted that Obama would be wise to elevate the U.N. ambassadorship to cabinet-level rank — as Clinton had done — which strikes me as a good idea.

So, what’s the bad news? If Rice is at the U.N. representing U.S. policy, she isn’t in the West Wing or the State Department, shaping U.S. policy.

That said, the U.N. ambassadorship has helped propel the careers of some well-known and well-respected officials. Names such as Adlai Stevenson, George H.W. Bush, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Andrew Young, Madeleine Albright, and Bill Richardson come to mind. They cut their teeth at the U.N. en route to even bigger and better things. Rice will likely do the same.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.