Theodore's World: Senators prefer John Kerry over Susan Rice for Secretary of State

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November 14, 2012

Senators prefer John Kerry over Susan Rice for Secretary of State

Senators prefer John Kerry over Susan Rice for Secretary of State

If Senate Republicans got to choose between Susan Rice and John Kerry for next secretary of state, it’d be no contest: Kerry by a landslide.

In interviews Tuesday, several GOP senators dissed the United Nations ambassador while giving the Massachusetts Democrat a ringing endorsement to succeed Hillary Clinton in the prestigious post. Rice and Kerry are reportedly high on President Barack Obama’s list of potential replacements.

It’s hardly a surprise many senators favor Kerry over Rice. They’ve served with him for years, enduring endless committee hearings and floor debates and occasionally even teaming up with him on legislation.

“I think he’d be much more easily confirmed in the Senate than Susan Rice,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee that will hold confirmation hearings on the next secretary of state.

As senators returned to the Capitol on Tuesday, it was clear Rice’s public remarks on the Sept. 11 Libya assault would continue to dog her if Obama gives her the nod. Specifically, Republicans blasted her Sept. 16 statements on the Sunday talk show circuit that the deadly attack was triggered by “spontaneous” demonstrations against an anti-Islam YouTube video.

Republicans have insisted that the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was a terrorist attack — a position the White House later agreed with.

“It’s clear at a minimum she made misrepresentations and misstatements on Benghazi on every major news network and so I think those questions have to be answered,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told POLITICO. “And so I have serious questions about her being put in the position of secretary of state.”

“Our intelligence officials in Libya, in real time while the event was taking place, were letting our folks know back here this was a terrorist attack,” added Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is expected to succeed outgoing Sen. Dick Lugar as the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

“It is beyond me that [Rice] would be out publicly talking about that event [as something sparked by a spontaneous demonstration]. It’s beyond belief.”

Those two senators did not threaten to filibuster Rice’s possible nomination, saying more questions needed to be answered. But Barrasso said her public remarks after the Libya attack meant that he could not support her.

“I think she disqualified herself as secretary of state because in that role you need to have somebody with sound judgement and who is able to ask tough questions in situations which are stressful,” Barrasso told reporters. “And I think she failed in light of Benghazi and the reports she did five days later.”

Corker’s concerns about Rice are significant, and the Foreign Relations panel has oversight of the State Department and would vote to confirm or reject Obama’s pick to replace Clinton. Kerry, a five-term senator and the committee’s chairman, is also a top prospect for the job, though a Washington Post report Tuesday suggested Obama is also considering him for defense secretary.

Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, declined to comment when asked by POLITICO about whether he has had any conversations with Obama about the defense job.

“I don’t have any comment about anything that we’re doing,” Kerry said before ducking into a closed-door Foreign Relations Committee briefing on the Benghazi attack.

Some GOP senators acknowledged that the final decision rests with the president, but that didn’t stop them from stating their preference.

“I’d rather have John Kerry,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who is retiring at the end of the year and won’t get a vote on the president’s nominee next year.

“I think he’s well positioned, he’s experienced, I think he’d take the job and he’s not tainted with the kinds of things that would I think be a problem for Ambassador Rice.”

As for Rice, Kyl said her appearances on the Sunday shows are “a huge, huge issue for her.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) defended Rice, saying she has done an “outstanding job” as U.N. ambassador to the U.S. But he said Kerry would benefit from his decades spent building relationships on Capitol Hill.

“Sen. Kerry is under consideration for a high position because he’s talented, has tremendous integrity and respect — he also happens to be a senator,” Cardin, who also serves on the committee, told POLITICO.

“Part of your responsibility in the administration is your relationship with the Senate and House, and obviously Sen. Kerry has an incredible relationship. I think colleagues on both sides of the aisle will tell you that.”

Lugar said Kerry “would be a very good choice” for Obama to appoint to the Cabinet as secretary of state or defense and predicted an easy confirmation.

“I’d think so,” Lugar (R-Ind.) told POLITICO when asked if he expected Kerry could get through the Senate vetting process. “I’m not certain I would understand opposition. He’s served so well in the Senate, as chairman of our committee.”

Lugar, who sits opposite Kerry atop the Foreign Relations Committee, said he didn’t think Obama should make his decision on whether to appoint Kerry based on the prospect that an open Massachusetts Senate seat could go to a Republican like outgoing Sen. Scott Brown in a special election.

“That seems to me not to be a very thoughtful reason for failing to nominate John for secretary of State,” Lugar said.

Both Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who serve on the Foreign Relations panel, said they would reserve judgment until Obama makes his selection and they have a chance to interview the nominee.

Wild Thing's comment...................

I will never understand the weakness in our Republicans elected to office. They beg for money, beg for our votes then when they get in power their brain goes dead. They are way too concerned with being liked by those on the left. One can feel it in their comments, and too few don't give a damn and those IMO are the ones we need more of. Kerry is horrible and a traitor, Susan Rice is bad too. So why can't they just say neither one, would it kill them to be strong on this???? Sheesh!

Posted by Wild Thing at November 14, 2012 02:55 AM


Oh Boy! A choice between a radical communist and a radical communist. And our neutered Repubs are debating which would be better. The last Repub with fortitude and integrity was John Bolton and Dubya threw him under the bus when the kitchen got hot.

Posted by: TomR, armed in Texas at November 14, 2012 12:41 PM