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5 Takeaways From Obama's Susan Rice Appointment

President Obama's choice of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser is one way of reminding his conservative foes he can still confound them.
Bebeto Matthews
President Obama's choice of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser is one way of reminding his conservative foes he can still confound them.

It wasn't exactly a surprise to hear that President Obama named U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser.

Almost as soon as it became clear that her role in the administration's Benghazi talking-points snafu meant Senate Republicans would never let her be confirmed as secretary of state if Obama nominated her, the possibility of her taking over from Tom Donilon as Obama's top national security aide was frequently mentioned.

Still, speculation is one thing; an actual appointment, another. So what to make of Rice's appointment?

Here are five ways to look at it:

1. Obama values loyalty.

The appointment could be seen as a reward for Rice's early loyalty to the president. Rice, who held important posts in the Clinton administration, took a chance on then-candidate Obama during his 2008 White House run, when it was still unclear whether he or Hillary Clinton would become the Democratic nominee. Rice eventually became his foreign policy adviser, a critical role for a presidential candidate who at the time, was light on international experience.

2. Obama to GOP: In your face.

So much for the charm offensive. As trash-talking scorers sometimes say to their defenders in basketball — a sport both Rice, a former point guard, and Obama played in prep school — her selection is a glaring "in your face" to Republican opponents of both Rice and Obama. The national security adviser post requires no Senate approval, so conservatives opposed to her (not all of them are) will just have to deal with it.

Not only is Rice not going away, she'll have a high-profile position. Republicans will be reminded of their inability to deny her a Cabinet-level position every time they see her in photos with the president, or when she visits Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers.

3. It's all Benghazi, all the time.

Rice's new role pretty much guarantees that anytime she's in the news, some conservatives will bring up her role in the Benghazi affair. So the appointment is likely to give the Benghazi line of attack on Obama a new lease on life.

4. The White House has its privileges.

Even as Obama's foes try to confound his second-term agenda, he has ways to confound them. There are appointments, for example, that don't require Senate confirmation and presidential powers, like executive orders, to achieve certain ends.

5. Then there's the diversity issue.

One of the ironies of the first African-American president's time in office — a president whose immediate household is all female — is that he's drawn criticism for not having enough minorities or women in senior positions in his administration.

Several of his second-term selections for top jobs have quieted that particular criticism. The choice of Rice can be seen as one more significant step in that direction.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.
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