President Obama defied Republican critics Wednesday by naming UN Ambassador Susan Rice as his new national security advisor.
Rice recently faced a furious flood of criticism from congressional Republicans, who claimed she was intentionally trying to mislead the country over the attack on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. Offering the best intelligence available at the time, Rice said on all five Sunday morning news shows that a peaceful protest had turned violent in response to an anti-Islamic video. The GOP’s campaign against her compelled Rice to withdraw her name from consideration as a replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rice will be replacing Tom Donilon, who will be resigning in early July, and the Senate does not need to confirm her.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday afternoon, President Obama praised Donilon for fulfilling a “Herculean task” before announcing Rice’s appointment.
Despite the GOP’s focus on Benghazi, Rice’s accomplishments include the intervention in Libya that saved hundreds of thousands of lives, sanctions on Iran, defense of Israel, and crucial support for South Sudan, to name a few.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) — a fierce critic of Rice — tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, “Obviously I disagree w/ POTUS appointment of Susan Rice as Nat’l Security Adviser, but I’ll make every effort to work w/ her on imp’t issues.”
Yet as the president pointed out on Wednesday, Susan Rice is an “exemplary” and “consummate public servant,” and “put simply, Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, President Obama also announced his nominee to replace Rice—Samantha Power, a foreign policy advisor to the president, may be the new UN Ambassador, a position that does require confirmation from the Senate.
Calling Power “one of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy,” the president said that “she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity. She’s been a relentless advocate for American interests and values.”
An established journalist and avid human rights advocate, Samantha Power has also irritated Republicans. In 2012, in the midst of what conservatives deemed President Obama’s “apology tour,” Power defended his policy of acknowledging American failures and misdeeds.
Power wrote in the New Republic, “U.S. foreign policy has to be rethought. It needs not tweaking, but overhauling. We need: a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, or permitted by the United States. This would entail restoring FOIA to its pre- Bush stature, opening the files, and acknowledging the force of a mantra we have spent the last decade promoting in Guatemala, South Africa, and Yugoslavia: A country has to look back before it can move forward. Instituting a doctrine of the mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors.”
This “mea culpa” doctrine angered much of the exceptionalist right.
Obama advised Congress against stifling Power’s confirmation. “To ensure we have the principled leadership we need at the United Nations,” he said, “I would strongly urge the Senate to confirm her without delay.”