Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN. She is an Obama administration advisor on foreign affairs. Rice went before the UN and defended Israel against the Palestinians and then later condemned the North African state of Libya targeted for regime-change., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
November 14, 2012, 7:14 p.m. ET.
Obama Considers U.N. Ambassador for Cabinet
By LAURA MECKLER And JAY SOLOMON
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama offered a robust defense of his United Nations ambassador, Susan Rice, who is seen as a front-runner for secretary of state, in response to fierce Republican attacks leveled earlier Wednesday.
Mr. Obama also is considering Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and possibly others for the cabinet position. He said at an afternoon news conference he hadn't decided who should succeed departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but said he would nominate Ms. Rice if he concluded she was the best person for the job.
On Wednesday morning, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona said they would do whatever they could to block her potential nomination. They cited Ms. Rice's role in the controversy over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Ms. Rice initially told television programs that the attack was the result of a protest against an anti-Islamic video that was distributed on the Web rather than a terrorist attack.
"I am dead set on making sure we don't promote anybody that was an essential player in the Benghazi debacle," Mr. Graham said.
The White House has said it provided information about Benghazi as it became available, and that Ms. Rice was accurately saying what the intelligence suggested at the time.
Mr. Kerry, another leading contender to succeed Mrs. Clinton, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is well-regarded inside the White House for his work in the presidential debate preparations.
One option, U.S. officials said, is for the president to nominate Mr. Kerry as defense secretary and Ms. Rice for state. The current defense chief, Leon Panetta, isn't expected to depart immediately, but also isn't expected to serve the full, four-year second term.
Mr. Obama also must find a new CIA director after the resignation of David Petraeus, and he needs a successor for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who is expected to depart soon.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama didn't say whom he planned to appoint to these posts, but said he wouldn't be influenced by GOP threats. "If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Mr. Obama said. "But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous."
Mr. Graham responded, "Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle."
Officials close to Ms. Rice said on Wednesday that they still believed she is the front-runner to succeed Mrs. Clinton, but added that the deliberations over Mr. Obama's new national security team remains "fluid."
Some Obama allies see a Rice nomination as requiring an expenditure of political capital that isn't necessary, given the Sen. Kerry alternative. "It's a higher risk, and I guess I don't see what the big gain is there," said one Democrat close to the White House.
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