Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reckless arrogance

It’s hard to find anyone in Washington, or throughout the world’s capitals not wowed by the job done by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has announced her intention to step aside next month.

Yet now, before she has even given an exact date for leaving office, Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte have set their own terms about who will follow Clinton. 

In an act of reckless arrogance more and more typical of McCain, he and his fellow senators have announced that Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice does not meet their standards and will not be confirmed as Clinton’s successor.

Never mind that the president has not said he is actually considering Susan Rice, these senators have accused Rice of the sin of going on the Sunday morning news shows and talking—hardly something that has never happened before. 

Are these senators deluded? 

The Constitution gives power to name “officers of the United States” to the president, along with “advice and consent” from the Senate. Since George Washington’s days, senators have used this power with great care, especially when it comes to the person who must embody a foreign policy set directly by the president.

Liz Halloran of National Public Radio reported, “We have no known cases of a secretary of state nominee being rejected.” According to Kate Scott, an assistant historian at the Senate, throughout the entire history of the U.S., only nine secretary of state nominees had any votes cast against them. Most were affirmed by voice vote.

Referring to what Rice said about attacks on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune noted, “Susan Rice’s comments didn’t send us to Iraq and Afghanistan. Somebody else’s did.” He continued, “But let us not forget that Republicans were delighted with another black woman, coincidentally named Rice, who played a high-profile role in the run-up to those wars.” What Page is saying is that what we have here are different standards for different public servants from different parties. 

The decision about who is to be secretary of state belongs primarily to the president. If President Obama does name Rice, he will be choosing a Rhodes scholar with a long history of competent public service who has been an effective U.N. ambassador. He will be choosing someone who was calm and collected in not revealing classified information in the midst of a crazy situation.

It is for the Senate to say yea or nay only then, and to chill out for now.


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