June 5, 2013
The appointment of Susan Rice as national security adviser to Obama is instructive in the context of domestic partisan politics. But the true global significance of her appointment will be reflected in US policy in Syria, Africa, and around the world.
Rice, Obama and the RepublicansUndoubtedly the center of this story as presented in the mainstream US media will be the continued conflict between Obama and congressional Republicans who have used the attacks in Benghazi, and Rice’s attempt to cover up the true nature of the terrorist act, as ammunition in their political assault on the administration. Conversely, Obama’s appointment will be seen as a stern response to the Republican bid for “character assassination” of Rice, as Obama no longer worries about a reelection campaign.
As Mark Landler wrote in the New York Times, “[The appointment of Susan Rice] is also a defiant gesture to Republicans who harshly criticized Ms. Rice for presenting an erroneous account of the deadly attacks on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya … For Ms. Rice, the appointment amounts to redemption.” From the perspective of the Obama administration, there are two core political motivations in tapping Rice for the position.
First and foremost, it allows the President to present himself as oppositional to Republicans, as a Democrat willing to stand his ground and defend one of his own against political and personal attacks. This point is not to be underestimated as President Obama continues to be accused by principled progressives of collusion and collaboration with Republicans on deficit reduction, cuts to vital social programs and other austerity-related policies. Essentially, Obama is able to use Rice as a shield, deflecting attention away from his destructive economic and political policies in favor of the much more manageable “controversy” about Susan Rice.