GOP house members are following a horrid precedent in trying to torpedo the possible nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State. The precedent was laid down by their Senate counterparts. That's dithering, delaying, and flat out obstructing Obama's nominees. The most glaring example of this is their record-shattering stonewalling of Obama's judicial picks. They insured that Obama almost had the dubious record of having fewer of his judicial picks confirmed than any other president in recent times. The GOP's blatant partisan stonewall of Obama's nominees was too much even for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who publicly lambasted GOP Senators for their obstructionism.
So given the GOP's dogged pattern of nay saying too many of Obama's picks, it's no surprise that the GOP would go after Rice. Her alleged duplicity in handling the terrorist Benghazi assault is the ostensible reason nearly 100 House members who have no say in Rice's confirmation want her dumped before she's even picked by Obama, if picked, for Secretary of State consideration.
Rice has plenty of defenders. The Congressional Black Caucus, a bevy of other House Democrats, and women's groups loudly brand the GOP attack on Rice as racist and sexist. And more than a few have noted that the GOP's seem to take special delight in targeting high-profile African Americans for pillorying. The names are well-known: Attorney General Eric Holder, Van Jones, Special Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and even Shirley Sherrod, an Agriculture Department official, and now Rice.
Though race can never be discounted in the GOP's calculations to hammer Obama and Democrats, it's probably not the driving force to nail Rice. The motive is Obama. The GOP, reeling from its election defeat, simply pulled a page from the playbook it used in 2008 to try and taint Obama. Then it went after Holder and dredged up every innuendo, hint, and piece of gossip of alleged wrongdoing by Holder as Clinton's Deputy Attorney General to try and wreck his confirmation, even before he was formally nominated. It didn't work. Obama nominated Holder and he was confirmed.
Rice's credentials for Secretary of State are impeccable. She is a seasoned diplomat, foreign affairs expert, and has gotten high marks for protecting U.S. interests and fighting for global and humanitarian concerns at the UN. Her experience insures that the administration will have continuity in implementing its foreign policy initiatives. As UN ambassador, Rice has dealt first hand with the enormous challenges of the Middle East conflict, Syria's civil war, and North Korea, and Iran's nuclear threat. These are the same challenges that Obama's Secretary of State will face in the coming months. These are touchy, sensitive issues that demand a firm helm at the helm of the state department.
Obama ironically has an immediate precedent for appointing Rice to the job. That's the Bush Administration's appointment of Condoleezza Rice. When Colin Powell announced that he would step down from the top diplomatic post after Bush's reelection, Bush quickly picked Rice to replace him. Rice guaranteed continuity in handling Bush's foreign policy matters. Bush ignored the protests from some quarters that Condoleezza Rice was deeply complicit in propagating Bush's phony claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and her part in selling the notion that the Iraq war had to be waged to eliminate them. The massive cloud over Rice prompted some Democrats to threaten to delay her confirmation on the Senate floor, but all but two Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to confirm. Though some Senate Democrats on the Senate floor did hotly debate Rice's role in the Iraq war debacle, ultimately most of them voted to confirm her. They did not hold her hostage to the horribly failed, flawed foreign policy of the Bush Administration. There is absolutely no comparison to Bush's policy and the foreign policy of the Obama Administration.
There are legitimate questions and concerns that should be raised about the deaths of the four Americans at Benghazi. But to use that terrible event to discredit the legion of ground-breaking, successful foreign policy accomplishments of the Obama Administration is beyond unconscionable. The GOP's never-ending campaign to tar one of the administration's most accomplished foreign affairs experts who has played a key role in implementing his successful initiatives is nothing but mean-spirited, cynical politics.
The GOP House members that took the unprecedented step of signing off on a warning letter to Obama to dump Rice before any decision is made on her, again sent the strong message that it will continue to grab at any straw -- no matter how ludicrous -- to war on the Obama Administration. This is all the more reason why the decision to appoint Rice as Secretary of State is the president's call, not the GOP's to make. And it's a call that the president should quickly make.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.