WASHINGTON, June 5, 2013 – President Obama’s current National Security Advisor, the nearly invisible Tom Donilon, is leaving his post in July. Whether he was asked to go, whether he’s leaving for personal reasons, or whether he is in disagreement with Obama Administration policies wasn’t mentioned in the press communiqué.
President Obama will be replacing him with Susan E. Rice, the United Nations Ambassador whom he and Hillary sent to all the talk shows last September to spin the Benghazi attack as “a reaction to a despicable video.”
The AP’s Julie Pace called the move “a significant shakeup to the White House foreign policy team,” but it’s actually a consolidation and centralization of power. Rice has already proven she’ll do anything, say anything that the president wants. She’s a perfect White House mouthpiece in that respect.
This, as much as it is a policy move, is a one finger salute to the Republicans who effectively blocked Rice’s appointment to Secretary of State. It is not a gesture of friendship, an offer to work together, or an attempt to find bipartisan solutions for anything. It’s a statement.
The president is giving Republicans the “We’re Number One - and you’re not” salute. Because he can.
Rice, 48, has been a loyal Obama supporter and minion for years, and now she will have his ear on all matters of foreign policy.
That is, she will do what he tells her to.
This new position may also be designed to distance or insulate her from the debacle in Benghazi last September. But the real message to come from this appointment is straight from the president to the Republicans, who don’t have a say in this appointment.
The president knows full well what the level of distrust in Susan Rice is. He knows that she is seen by viewers of all five Sunday-morning talk shows as a flak and a liar. She’s an in-your-face, unapologetic and nasty-tempered irritant to Republicans; hence, she’s perfect for the job.
Or at least she’s the perfect messenger.
Rice herself doesn’t deny her prickliness. In a joke at the UN Correspondents Association gathering last year, the Rhodes scholar, Stanford grad, and Brookings Institution alumna said, “People have called me brusque, aggressive, abrasive. Of course, they don’t say that to my face, because they know I’d kick their butts.”
It was humor, but as George Saunders said, “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.”
Samantha Power, a 42-year old Yale undergrad, Harvard Law graduate and teacher, will take the vacated UN Ambassador position. Power is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem from Hell, which highlights the U.S. response to genocide in Bosnia and Africa. She was also a senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security Council during Obama’s first term and into this year.
A decade ago, Power wrote in the The New Republic that the “U.N. Security Council is anachronistic, undemocratic, and consists of countries that lack the standing to be considered good faith arbiters of how to balance stability against democracy, peace against justice, and security against human rights.”
Terrible ideas: that stability and democracy are mutually exclusive; that peace and justice conflict with each other; and that more security requires the curtailment of human rights. That tension is perfect for a dictator or a tyrant, but not exactly mainstream American thought.
Donilon’s exit, at 58, is enigmatic. Rumors are that he didn’t feel needed by the president; but why, then did the president keep him on in this position, until now?
Donilon hasn’t announced plans for his life after July. Had he stuck around until the end of Obama’s term, he’d be ready for retirement, leaving us to wonder what new career awaits?
More to the point, what is the motivation for giving the discredited and disruptive Rice such a powerful position? Is it possible that the Republican version of a pressure cooker, nice questions, phrased to not get information, with implausible follow-ups, may be disturbing her?
In her new position, she will have the insulation of “national security” around her; plus, since Benghazi was such “a long time ago,” she’ll be expected to have increasingly hazy memories, modified by her new duties.
Even though they got John Kerry into the top seat at the Department of State by threatening a delay in Rice’s assumed movement into that post, Republicans have nothing to say about Rice’s new appointment. It doesn’t require that the Senate advise or consent.
As for Power’s appointment, she is a shoo-in; She’s got that Yale/Harvard smell about her.
It’s clearer than ever that Obama wants to insulate himself from any possible culpability for his mistakes, relying on his drones to do his dirty work. Susan Rice will become even closer to the president as national security advisor.
The smart money says it’s not to advise him, but to deflect inquiries from the presidency itself and give his ideas a particularly loud and ideologically-compliant voice.
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