Politics

Dec 13, 2012 5:03 PM by Associated Press

Rice withdraws as Secretary of State candidate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Susan Rice, the embattled U.N. ambassador, abruptly withdrew from consideration to be the next secretary of state on Thursday after an ugly standoff with Republican senators who declared they would vigorously oppose her nomination.

The move elevated Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as the likely choice to be the nation's next top diplomat when Hillary Rodham Clinton departs soon.

President Barack Obama accepted Rice's decision with a shot at Republicans.

"While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character," he said.

Rice had become the public face of the tangled administration description of what happened in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 of this year when four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed in what is now known to have been a terrorist attack.

Rice withdrew her name in a letter to the president, saying she was convinced the confirmation process would be "lengthy, disruptive and costly - to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities."

"That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country," Rice said.--

Rice may end up close to Obama's side in another way - as his national security adviser should Tom Donilon move on to another position. Obama made clear she would remain in his inner circle, saying he was grateful she would stay as "our ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my Cabinet and national security team."

Rice would have faced strong opposition from Senate Republicans who challenged her much-maligned televised comments about the cause of the deadly raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Her efforts to satisfy Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Susan Collins in unusual, private sessions on Capitol Hill fell short as the Republicans emerged from the meetings still expressing doubts about her qualifications for secretary of state.

"The position of secretary of state should never be politicized," Rice said. "As someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S national security official who has served in two U.S. administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point."

Obama has strong ties to both Rice and Kerry. Rice is a close friend, and aides say the two are in lockstep on foreign policy. Kerry was an early backer of Obama during his 2008 presidential bid, a valuable envoy abroad, a help in his re-election bid and a contender to be his first secretary of state.

While Kerry has the backing of his longtime Senate colleagues for the post, Rice has faced withering criticism from some Republicans.

Even if confirmed, a contentious Senate fight could have sent Rice into the job with weakened support and used up some of the tough votes Obama may need from allies in the Senate later.

In a brief statement, a spokesman for McCain said the senator "thanks Ambassador Rice for her service to the country and wishes her well. He will continue to seek all the facts surrounding the attack on our consulate in Benghazi that killed four brave Americans."

Rice's decision comes ahead of the anticipated release next week of a report by an Accountability Review Board into the attack on the Benghazi mission. The report ordered by Clinton, focuses on the run-up to and the actual attack and is not expected to mention Rice's role in its aftermath.

Clinton is to testify about the report before Congress next Thursday.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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