Obama names Susan Rice National Security Adviser after Donilon steps down
WASHINGTON — Susan Rice won by losing.
Having lost a chance to be Secretary of State amid harsh Republican criticism, the U.N. ambassador was picked by President Obama on Wednesday to be his national security adviser.
So she doesn't get her own plane, like the secretary of state, and travel the world. But she gets something perhaps more valuable, daily proximity to Obama. In replacing Thomas Donilon, she will be the one briefing the President on the state of the world each morning.
"I'm absolutely thrilled she'll be back at my side," said Obama about Rice, who was a top policy adviser during his 2008 presidential campaign before heading to the UN.
Obama withdrew Rice's name for consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state after Republicans harshly rebuked Rice for role after last year's terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
They charged her with making misleading statements about the attack on the morning news shows the Sunday after the attack.
Unlike the secretary of state post, the national security adviser does not need Senate confirmation. Ironically, Rice will now essentially be devising with Obama what amounts to Secretary of State John Kerry's policy marching orders.
Critics of her role last fall clearly now seem willing to support her in the new job.
Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who called for Rice’s resignation from the U.N. post last fall, was more muted on Wednesday.
"Susan Rice has done a good job at the U.N., especially on North Korea, but she really compromised her reputation when she went on those Sunday shows," he said.
"The President can appoint whomever he wants," he said. "If she's going to be there, it's important for me to try to work with her."
To replace Rice in the U.N. position, Obama named Samantha Power, a former journalist who advised him on foreign affairs soon after he was elected to the Senate.
A fierce proponent of human rights and an activist humanitarian aid agenda, she has served on the National Security Council and has been a key point of contact for Rice.
Power will have to run the Senate gauntlet to be confirmed. At minimum, Republicans will have potential fodder if they so choose, given her often unequivocal writings critical of U.S. foreign policy and the U.N. itself.
Power emigrated from Ireland with her parents at age nine and won the Pulitzer Prize for her book, "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide." It was an exploration into why the U.S. had not been more activist in stopping genocide, notably in the Balkans and Africa.
Having covered the Balkans War as a journalist in the 1990s, she argued that history shows that American leaders have often been aware of similar suffering throughout the century and done little, if anything.
In addition, she cited examples of American-backed coups in various countries and early U.S. assistance to Iraq's Saddam Hussein in fighting Kurds and argued, "We need a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, permitted by the United States."
As for the U.N. she has been disapproving at times, including skewering the U.N. Security Council as both anti-democratic and moth-eaten.
Donilon’s White House service dates to 1977, when he was just 22 and worked in the administration of President Jimmy Carter.
Obama praised him for helping to "shape every single national security policy of my presidency — from forging a new national security strategy rooted in our economic strength here at home to end the war in Iraq."
"Here at the White House, Tom oversaw the operation that led us to bin Laden. He's helped keep our transition on track as we wind down the war in Afghanistan."
"You've been with me every step of the way these past four years, and the American people owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for everything that you've done."
Obama is not saying farewell to the Donilon family, however; he has nominated Donilon’s wife, Cathy, to be the U.S. global ambassador for women.