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December 13th, 2012
08:48 PM ET

Letters to the President #1424: 'Rice withdraws'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is assembling his new team for his second term. I don’t believe I am being chosen. Especially after all these letters. Oh well.

Dear Mr. President,

I’m sure you were none too happy about Susan Rice withdrawing her name from consideration as a possible new Secretary of State. Heaven knows what kind of back door wrangling was involved in all that, and I doubt you were surprised, but it is never comfortable for an administration to see one of its possible picks for a job being instead picked off by the critics.

That said, I am struck by something that one of those critics said weeks ago; in essence it was, “Yes, Rice is a highly qualified candidate for the job. But there are plenty of those in D.C. There is no reason for the president to stick with her when clearly she has become a lightning rod over the Benghazi incident.”

That, I suspect, sounded pretty harsh to many of her fans. But there is a ring of practical politics in it, that you and I both know can’t be ignored in this town.

I’m sure you realized within a few weeks of taking the job that your effectiveness depends in large part on how much faith voters have in your leadership. So while many may find it admirable that you defended Rice in the early weeks after the attack, just as many may appreciate your decision to move on now.

The anger at her statements following the attack has not abated. Republican critics, who are looking for any weakness in your armor, would have surely used her confirmation to rehash the painful events over and over again. Beyond that, they would have suggested none too subtly that your judgment was unsound in even considering her after what happened in Benghazi. And even if Rice survived the process, she would have been a target; someone whose every move would be scrutinized and every misstep assailed. That may well have weakened her effectiveness, no matter how good she was at the job.

Now, would she have been good at the job? No one really knows, nor now will they ever. But it is virtually certain that there are indeed many other strong candidates for the post, and the sooner you can move on to them, the sooner your administration can put these troubles behind you.

Hope all is well.

Regards,
Tom

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