The war against Susan Rice, waged by a handful of Republican Senators, led by John McCain, finally snared its sole casualty this week, as Ambassador Rice withdrew her name from consideration to be President Obama’s nominee as secretary of state.
It was a bad day for the Republican Party, which already has, to put it mildly, an image problem with minorities and women.
It was a bad day for the Obama administration, which now, even as it had planned to pick Senator John Kerry anyway, appears to have lost a fight with a gaggle of sniping Senators before they even had a chance to nominate anyone to replace the popular Hillary Clinton at State.
And it was a bad day for African-American women, who even after an election in which their overwhelmingly preferred candidate won a substantial victory, have watched Ms. Rice be set aside, not for a lack of competence or qualification, but simply because she landed in the middle of Washington’s unique brand of palace intrigue.
If reports out of Washington are to be believed, Ms. Rice and Kerry were the only two people under consideration to replace Clinton in a job Ms. Rice told NBC’s Brian Williams on Thursday, she certainly would have wanted.
In stepping aside, Ms. Rice dutifully spared the administration and the president an ugly confirmation fight, which again, we have no way of knowing whether they planned to wage at all.
McCain’s anti-Rice jihad, which fed a nonsensical, virulent campaign against the administration over the tragic attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, had an uncomfortably personal feel to it. The eternally bitter McCain, having failed to beat President Barack Obama for the job both men wanted in 2008, has seemed to cast around for ways to trump him in office. In true bipartisan spirit, it’s the same approach he took to President George W. Bush, who beat him in the 2000 primaries, only to find McCain gleefully undercutting him — back then, from the left — at every turn.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t take a Washington insider to guess that many Senators would prefer to see one of their own nominated to replace Mrs. Clinton, herself a former Senator. Hence the relative silence, even among Democratic Senators, on behalf of Rice. Mr. Kerry is a respected member of the club of 100, and freeing his seat would offer Republicans the added bonus of re-running Scott Brown.