GOP's opposition to Rice is making no sense

2012-12-06T00:00:00Z GOP's opposition to Rice is making no senseKathleen Parker Washington Post Writers Group Arizona Daily Star

A variety of insults have been deployed in opposition to Susan Rice's likely nomination for secretary of state: She is not qualified; she's too aggressive; she misled the public after the lethal attack on the American Consulate in Libya.

But upon closer examination, the real reason may be less complicated. She's not a member of the most elite club in America, the U.S. Senate. Also, she appears to be President Obama's first choice.

As anyone with a television knows, Rice has come under fire by the new, revised Tres Amigos - Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, plus Susan Collins of Maine. All have expressed concerns about Rice's role in delivering the administration's explanation after the Benghazi attack, which initially was blamed on street protests over an anti-Muhammad video, but later confirmed as a terrorist attack.

While Collins, who previously supported Rice, says she still has unanswered questions, McCain - whose understanding of qualified female candidates is legendary - has promised to block Rice's nomination. Graham, who most certainly will be "primaried" in the next election by South Carolinians who doubt his commitment to hard-right lunacy, followed suit, as did Ayotte.

Off somewhere letting her hair grow, Hillary Clinton knitted her brows and noted that Rice has been an excellent U.N. ambassador. Which is to say, she didn't exactly go to the mat for her female colleague, who had the audacity to support Obama for president rather than the former first lady.

In Ganglandia, it's the New Kids versus the Clinton Machine. How dare Rice, once a Clinton administration appointee, defect?

Clinton, a McCain buddy from their years in the Senate, reportedly prefers another Senate pal, John Kerry, as her successor. So does McCain & Co. And so, needless to say, does Kerry, whose chiseled jaw alone constitutes a diplomatic arsenal. There's clearly no profit in Clinton, a likely presidential candidate in 2016, alienating allies and devaluing her own currency for Rice.

Even so, the opposition's arguments are weak, chief among them that Rice isn't qualified. This from McCain, whose vetting history includes about 80 minutes of conversation with Sarah Palin before selecting her as his running mate in 2008.

For the record, Rice is a graduate of Stanford University and a Rhodes scholar, who served as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Even this is troubling to Collins, who said the Benghazi attack "in many ways echoes the attacks on (U.S. embassies in Africa) in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region."

Given this logic, shouldn't all eyes now be on Johnnie Carson? No, not the former "Tonight Show" host, Johnny Carson, but the current assistant secretary of African affairs. If Rice is somehow responsible for the 1998 attacks, shouldn't Carson be scrutinized for Benghazi?

Everybody brave enough to enter the public arena gets a few free passes when they utter something short of brilliant, but most of the criticisms aimed at Rice seem ungrounded in reality.

To blame her for representing the administration's position as provided to her at the time is missing the target, which is properly the White House.

Does Rice have an aggressive personality, as some have said? And does this pose a risk in nominating her? Yes and yes. She notoriously once flipped the bird to diplomat Richard Holbrooke during a State Department meeting.

Such an impulsive act is no recommendation, but is it emblematic or merely anecdotal? Aggression - and even occasional rudeness - is rarely considered a flaw in men.

The investigation into what transpired in Benghazi - bad things sometimes happen in dangerous places - is certainly appropriate.

The administration's incoherent handling of information deserves scrutiny. But Rice, barring something we don't know, clearly has the qualifications for secretary of state.

Email Kathleen Parker at kathleenparker@washpost.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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