Former State Dept. Spokesman: Obama Likely to Nominate Susan Rice

P.J. Crowley predicts Obama will ignore GOP senators acting as John Kerry 'nominating committee.'

P. J. Crowley, former State Department communications director, peeks out of a doorway of the Franklin Room at the Department of State in Washington, July 31, 2009.
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A former State Department spokesman and assistant secretary believes errant appearances on Sunday talk shows will not prohibit Susan Rice from serving as America's chief diplomat.

Susan Rice admitted the talking points she received from intelligence agencies were "incorrect," following her remarks that the attacks on the State Department facility in Benghazi were caused by impromptu protests. That, combined with President Barack Obama's fervent efforts to support her, should be enough to clinch the Cabinet position, says P.J. Crowley.

"President Obama has very strongly and very publicly expressed his support for Ambassador Rice on two occasions. That suggests to me that … he is prepared to nominate her and fight to get her confirmed," says Crowley.

"It has been clearly demonstrated that Susan Rice faithfully echoed the best judgment of the intelligence community in her Sunday show appearances," he tells U.S. News. "There are legitimate questions about those talking points, but they should be directed at the CIA, not Susan Rice."

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Senate Republicans are acting as a "nominating committee" for John Kerry, Crowley says. Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Kelly Ayotte maintain their criticism of the prospective pick following a Tuesday hearing in which Rice explained her actions.

Kerry would be a good secretary, Crowley adds, but it isn't the Senate's role to make nominations.

Critics have also said Rice, currently the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and a member of the president's cabinet, should not have spoken publicly on the issue.

"I've always thought that in a crisis, senior representatives of government have an obligation to communicate what we know to the American people," says Crowley. "The fact that a crisis occurred during the middle of a political campaign does not change that responsibility."

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Crowley resigned in 2011 after publicly criticizing the Defense Department's treatment of military prisoner Bradley Manning.

He also offered his thoughts on who might be picked for the next secretary of Defense when Leon Panetta chooses to leave. Precedent points to Deputy Secretary Ash Carter, or members of Congress such as Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed or former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

Other contenders include Richard Danzig, a former secretary of the Navy, who was a key advisor during Obama's 2008 campaign.

Michele Flournoy could become the first female secretary of Defense, as U.S. News has speculated. However, she resigned from her position as undersecretary of Defense for Policy for "personal reasons," Crowley says.

"So [her nomination] may be in a future administration, not this one," he says.

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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at pshinkman@usnews.com