Susan Rice withdraws for secretary of state

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Photo by: Fulani Medi / ILRI / CC BY-NC-SA

Susan Rice won’t replace Hillary Clinton as the top U.S. diplomat. The United Nations ambassador withdrew her name from consideration on Friday (Dec. 13) in a letter to President Barack Obama after criticism of her handling of recent violence in Libya.

“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in her letter. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country. … Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”

After the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, Rice had suggested publicly that the violence grew out of spontaneous demonstrations against an anti-Muslim movie. The administration later acknowledged that the attack was a pre-planned terrorist attack.

Rice had been considered a leading contender to succeed Clinton after her expected departure next year. Other candidates rumored to be in the running for that job, which wields huge influence over U.S. aid policy and planning especially when it comes to two of the Obama administration’s top priorities - global health and food security - include Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry of Massachusetts and outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman of California, who earlier this week introduced a sweeping foreign aid reform bill.

Between the two, Washington insiders suggest Kerry is more likely to get the nod despite him being attached to other administration post such as secretary of defense. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius notes: “The fact that Kerry is a known commodity, with a predictable, reliable persona is one of his strengths.”

He identifies three qualities he says make Kerry “a good fit.” The senator recognizes that the “world is a mess” and is in need of stronger U.S. diplomatic leadership, appreciates “the importance of quiet diplomacy” and is willing to challenge norms despite his “stiff” image.

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  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.