Liberals and Democrats, it seems, were rallying around the potential Secretary of State candidate, Susan Rice. She’s the United States’ Ambassador to the U.N. She has nearly 20 years of diplomatic experience. She’s smart and she’s exceptionally well-qualified. Republicans, on the other hand, are making Rice into a sort of scapegoat. Now, it seems that some liberals are beginning to question Rice.
Republicans seem to be trying to personally hold Rice responsible for the deaths of four people in September 11th’s terror attack in Benghazi, Libya. The more questions Rice answers, the more relentless GOP Senators are becoming in their quest to make sure she never holds the office of Secretary of State.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has gone so far as to say, “I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State. Now, there are questions about her personality, and they aren’t all coming from Republicans. From the Guardian:
In the Post, Dana Milbank served up a poisonous anecdote dating back to Bill Clinton’s administration, claiming that “she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses.” Milbank’s allegations of bad blood between Rice and Hillary Clinton hints at where he derived his anonymous sources.
Milbank is even reduced to quoting at second hand an “anonymous Russian foreign ministry official” as saying Rice was too aggressive – as if that was some sort of disqualification for a US official.
Meanwhile, the New York Times’ formidable Maureen Dowd was asking “Is Rice cooked?” in her op-ed column, stating: “Some have wondered if Rice, who has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation, is diplomatic enough for the top diplomatic job.” Dowd mocked Rice as slavishly devoted to the White House and “her pal Valerie Jarrett” and so was too willing to uncritically regurgitate the flawed talking points regarding the Benghazi attack.
If these allegations are true, it’s certainly a troubling omen for a woman slated to be the country’s number one diplomat. However, President Obama is staunchly standing by Rice.
New questions have arisen from the left about Rice’s investments. According to OpenSecrets.org from 2009, Susan Rice is the wealthiest member of the Executive Branch, with an estimated worth of between $23 million and $43 million. About a third of her holdings are in the oil industry.
On Earth Magazine reports that she has between $300,000 and $600,000 invested in TransCanada, which is the company that is applying for federal permits to transport tar sands from Canada to Texas via the Keystone Pipeline. In total, she and her husband own at least $1.25 million in Canadian oil stock plus she is heavily invested in Canadian banks who would be issuing pipeline loans. As Secretary of State, she would head the agency that approves the permits. As it currently stands, should the pipeline get approval, Rice would most likely profit.
It would be simple for Rice to divest herself of these investments, which should clear her for part of the way to the Secretary of State post. In fact, as U.N. Ambassador, she had to sign a statement that she would divest in all companies that would create a conflict of interest. I see no reason why she would refuse to sign a similar statement as a Secretary of State candidate.
It almost seems, at times, that Republicans are bullying President Obama into nominating Rice. Surrounding her controversy has always been the assumption that she will be the nominee. Fred Kaplan of Slate is scratching his head over the political motives in scapegoating Rice in the Benghazi situation. Of course, if Republicans are able to turn Obama’s first high-profile second term nomination into a resounding defeat, it will certainly take some of the wind out of his post-election sails, particular in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. If he doesn’t nominate Rice, he will appear weak, which is the main criticism he’s gotten from the left during his first term. It would also open up the position for John Kerry (D-MA), an influential Senator who Republicans would love to replace, even if it is with a less influential Democrat.
It’s doubtful that Democrats will find any candidates with a squeaky clean investment portfolio and, as I said, some quick work by her investments counselor will eliminate any conflicts of interest, but is she the best candidate? That’s a question that the Obama administration doesn’t seem to be given the luxury of even pondering. Perhaps these concerns that are coming from the left are a way of giving the President a little breathing room; a way out of nominating Rice without seeming weak.