U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration for secretary of state, Brian Williams of NBC News reports.
“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama, obtained by NBC News. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country … Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”
With Rice out of the running, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is widely believed to be the frontrunner to replace current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Joshua Hersh reported earlier this month that Democrats were nervous about the prospect of nominating Kerry:
The concerns have nothing to do with Kerry’s ability to handle the Foggy Bottom post. Nearly everyone agrees that he has the intellectual acumen and experience for the job.
Instead, Democrats said they worry that Republicans may be using the secretary of state fight as a roundabout way to regain a Senate seat the GOP lost this fall, when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was defeated by Elizabeth Warren. The anti-Rice gambit, some Democrats said, has the feel of a Republican long con.
Obama released the following statement on Rice’s withdrawal:
Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.
Rice’s potential nomination was marred by persistent Republican criticism of her response to the Sept. 11 anniversary attack on a U.S. compound Benghazi, Libya. She spoke on a number of morning shows in the wake of the attacks to defend the administration’s handling of the incident, which led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. During her appearances, she described the attack as the result of a spontaneous protest stemming from an anti-Islam video, an account that was later found to be incorrect.
GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) later emerged as her most vocal opponents, claiming that her mischaracterization of the attack was a sign that she was unfit to serve as secretary of state