News that former national security adviser Susan Rice is apparently among a handful of women under consideration to be Joe Biden’s running mate has Republicans salivating — especially GOP foreign policy hawks in the Senate.
“It’d be a good move for Republicans,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday when asked about the possibility Biden settles on Rice as his vice presidential pick.
“I don’t think she’ll wear well over time,” he chuckled of the former aide to President Barack Obama.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Tuesday he’ll be making the long-anticipated announcement next week. He has vowed to select a woman — someone, he said, who is “simpatico with me, both in terms of personality as well as substance” but who has “strengths and capacities I don’t.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a prominent progressive voice on foreign policy, said all the purported candidates on Biden’s shortlist, including Rice, would make a “great” vice president. “Republicans have never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative,” he said in defense of Rice.
Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois are also among those reportedly on Biden’s shortlist. Others floated for the job include Reps. Val Demings of Florida and Karen Bass of California.
It’s not clear how seriously one should take reports that Rice is being considered for the job. Multiple candidates usually get floated to the press, and those who are seriously in the running often don’t talk about it. Moreover, Rice has no experience in elected office, and her expertise in foreign policy overlaps an area in which Biden is already well versed.
But the recent speculation surrounding Rice apparently has the GOP tickled, nevertheless. Many Republican lawmakers view her involvement in Obama-era controversies, such as the 2012 terrorist attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as an opportunity to go after Biden’s eight-year record as vice president and his decades-long record on foreign policy in the Senate, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Susan Rice was the ‘Typhoid Mary’ of the Obama-era foreign policy, and Joe Biden and his Secretary of Defense Bob Gates have been wrong about every foreign policy decision of the last 40 years,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who might be the biggest foreign policy hawk in the upper chamber, put it recently. Gates was secretary of defense under George W. Bush and then Obama. He earlier served as CIA director.
Asked about Rice as Biden’s possible veep on Wednesday, Cotton tilted his head back and laughed.
Rice’s handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks is apparently a factor in her consideration as Biden’s running mate. According to The New York Times, “people close to Mr. Biden... fear that choosing her would force the campaign to spend precious days relitigating her role” in responding to the attacks. As then-ambassador to the United Nations, Rice was criticized for delivering talking points she was given by the administration that blamed the attacks on an internet video.
Rice defended her role in responding to the consulate attacks on Wednesday, however, saying that the many congressional probes Republicans set up to look into the matter cleared her of wrongdoing.
“Not one of them found that I had deliberately misled the American people, but I don’t doubt that the Republicans will use this, and they’ll attack whoever is Joe Biden’s choice to be his vice president. But let’s be honest about what this is. This is dishonest, and it’s a distraction,” Rice said in an interview with ABC’s “The View.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, suggested another line of attack against Rice if she becomes Biden’s running mate: her role in “unmasking” identities of Americans connected with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and transition team who were mentioned in foreign surveillance intelligence reports. Some of those reports involved conversations with suspected Russian intelligence sources.
Paul suggested without evidence that Rice’s actions were political in nature ― namely that she was seeking to target and damage Trump before he took office. Rice, however, says she was simply doing her job as the country’s national security adviser.
“If I were vetting her, I would see how much involvement she had in political purposes,” the Kentucky senator said Wednesday, questioning “whether or not she abused her authority for unmasking.”
Rice has ratcheted up her attacks against Trump and his policies as chatter about her future has grown in recent days. She has been particularly vocal about the president’s handling of intelligence indicating that Russian officials had paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants in exchange for the deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The former national security adviser said Trump “knew and has chosen not to act” on the information.
Trump confirmed to Axios on Tuesday that he had never brought the issue up with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite speaking to him a half dozen times since the reports first surfaced.
Rice has also been active on Trump’s favorite social media platform. When the president said he was backing out of throwing the opening pitch at an upcoming Yankees baseball game, she tweeted a photo of herself throwing the first pitch at a Nationals game in 2013.
“What’s the matter, Mr. President? Can’t get it up and over the plate?” she wrote.