Obama says he hasn’t made a decision. But rejecting Rice in favor of Kerry would make the president look like he’s buckling to pressure from McCain, the Republican opponent he defeated in the 2008 election. And yet, if how something looks is the issue– and appearances are critical in diplomacy — then Obama should choose Kerry.
Kerry, a prominent senator for 28 years, would sail through his Senate confirmation hearings. Rice would be pinned down not just by Benghazi but by some of her past statements, in particular these two: In 1994, when she served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, she reportedly asked about the possibility of intervening in Rwanda: “If we use the word’genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?”
In 2011, as European countries were pushing for a UN Security Council resolution creating a no-fly zone over Libya, she reportedly told the France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, that the U.S. wouldn’t be pulled into France’s war and she disparaged the conflict with an obscenity. Dredging up the latter incident is especially unfair, considering that Rice joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the National Security Council official Samantha Power to push the men in the administration to intervene in Libya. Still, Kerry’s colleagues wouldn’t hesitate to use any ammunition on hand against Rice.
Kerry would be much-better received than Rice not just in the Senate but in the rest of the world — which should be more than a little relevant in this decision. After 27 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he knows every player of consequence. His on-the-job training would be minimal.
Lest we forget, Obama probably wouldn’t be president without Kerry, who asked him to deliver the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that started his career.