Obama appoints Susan Rice to become National Security Adviser

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Susan Rice, who withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State last fall as Republicans sharply attacked her over comments she made about the attack on American diplomats in Benghazi, will be tapped today as President Obama’s new National Security Adviser, as the New York Times first reported.

Rice, a longtime Obama ally who was one of his first foreign advisers during his 2008 campaign and currently serves as UN ambassador, will take over for current NSA Tom Donilon, who will step down next month. She will be the third African-American in U.S. history to hold that position.

The move is not a surprise, as White House aides had suggested Rice could be Donilon’s replacement after Obama opted against picking for John Kerry instead of Rice at the State Department. But it illustrates Obama’s defiance in the face of the Republicans’ intense focus on the administration’s initial inaccurate portrayal of the attack out a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.

Rice, in a series of appearances on Sunday news talks shows in the days after the attack, had cast it as the result of anti-Muslim video that was being distributed at the time, but U.S. officials later concluded it was a planned act of terrorism.

When Rice was being considered for Secretary of State, Republicans, particularly John McCain (R-Ariz.), cast her as the face of an administration they believed had mislead the public and signaled they would make her confirmation hearings extremely difficult if she were nominated.

Obama strongly defended Rice at the time, saying she had done “exemplary work” and arguing she had nothing to do with what happened at Benghazi. And White House officials said e-mails released over the last month illustrate the administration and Rice in particular were not trying to cover-up how the attack happened.

It’s not clear if Rice, 48, will shift U.S. foreign policy in any major new direction. Aides cast her and Obama as sharing a general foreign policy vision (both were skeptics of the Iraq War for example) but also a strong personal relationship.

But her promotion is unlikely to generate universal applause throughout Washington. While she is widely regarded as one of the leading foreign policy figures in the Democratic Party, Republicans are likely to attack her as too politically close to the president, while some Democrats view her as too blunt and direct.