The Susan Rice Fight Is Really About Making Obama Look Bad

The people that yell the loudest get the most air time, not those who are actually trying to legislate and govern.

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Susan Rice laughs during a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jan. 15, 2009. (Kevin Wolf/AP)

There is a clear bias in the media, but it's not the partisan bent newspapers and TV stations are often accused of having. It's a bias toward conflict and tension. Thoughtful people are not often asked to be on cable news and magazine shows. Screamers get air time. Dick Morris, a political consultant whose prognoses on the presidential election were laughably off-base, continues to pen a column in a Capitol Hill daily and appear on TV. The media often appears to have given up on telling people what's going on—they're too busy trying to tell everyone, in the loudest terms, how people feel about what's going on.

So perhaps Senate and House Republicans are not entirely to blame for the misguided attack on Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and reportedly a contender to be the next secretary of state. The senators (and a passel of House Republicans, who don't even get a say on presidential nominations) have already stated that they will hamper or stop the nomination of Rice, who hasn't been nominated for anything yet. They have accused her, appallingly, of lying to the American public by going on television and saying an anti-Muslim video was responsible, at least in part, for the attacks on American diplomats in Benghazi. Calling her a liar is stunning in its arrogance, as Rice was merely repeating what U.S. intelligence had reported at the time. Nor can she be accused of incompetence, since it's absurd to suggest that she should have discounted the conclusions of American intelligence agents and—what? Gone to the Middle East herself and conducted her own, personal investigation? Hired Adrian Monk?

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

But this isn't about Rice's qualifications for a cabinet post. Nor is it about some Senate club scheme to get Sen. John F. Kerry into the job. Kerry is more than qualified to be secretary of state or defense—two posts he is reportedly being considered for. With his background in diplomacy, extensive relationships with foreign leaders, and Vietnam War combat experience, Kerry could do wonders for healing the historic rift between those two agencies. Kerry has street cred in both the diplomatic and military arenas, and both would know he had their back, no matter which agency he hypothetically headed.

But the anti-Rice campaign isn't about Kerry, either. It's a way for a humbled Republican party to let President Obama know he can't have what he wants, even if he hasn't even said what he wants. If Obama nominates Rice, he'll do it knowing he'll get holy hell from Hill Republicans eager to take him down a notch after Democratic gains in the election. And if he never intended to nominate her to begin with, he appears to have caved into GOP demands—even if he really isn't.

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It's conflict, all right, and a lot of tension. It's one of the reasons the still-hypothetical nomination has gotten so much air time and space on websites and in newspapers. But it has nothing to do with legislating or governing—two things Washington needs far more right now.

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