Susan Rice finds a home in Biden White House without facing Republican senators

Republicans vilified her for comments on attack on US facility in Libya under Obama administration

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Thursday 10 December 2020 16:57
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Susan Rice, who was vilified by conservatives during the Obama administration’s Benghazi scandal, has been tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to lead his White House Domestic Policy Council.

The move gives the longtime Washington insider a senior place within the coming Biden administration without requiring Senate confirmation. She had been said to be on his vice presidential shortlist, although it was unclear to experts how she helped him electorally.

Ms Rice also was rumored as a secretary of state nominee, but with a razor-thin majority for whichever party ultimately controls the Senate, her confirmation fight would have been contentious and uncertain.

Long an inside player in the Clinton and Obama administrations, Ms Rice’s experience will allow her to help the incoming president rebuild a decision-making and policy-crafting process that was partially undone by Donald Trump, who often bucked his aides by making policy announcements on Twitter.

“Rice is among our nation’s most senior and experienced government leaders with the skills to harness the power of the federal government to serve the American people. As a former member of the Cabinet, she also understands the challenges and opportunities of running an agency and has extensive experience working with other key members of the Biden-Harris White House team, including the heads of [National Security Council] and [National Economic Council],” the Biden transition team said in a statement.

Ms Rice is merely the latest former Obama administration official the president-elect has tapped to help him deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“With years of experience working at senior levels in the executive branch, Rice knows government inside and out and will carry through the president-elect’s vision of a newly empowered Domestic Policy Council and turbocharge the effort to build back better,” the transition team added.

Ms Rice was America’s ambassador to the United Nations under Mr Obama, then his final national security adviser. 

She became part of Mr Obama’s inner circle. But, more importantly to the incoming president, she gained the trust and respect of the vice president, Mr Biden, who was her West Wing office neighbour. As the Washington Post reported earlier this year, they would speak several times per day, and Mr Biden sought out her insights and advice on major foreign policy and national security matters.

That means the duo has deep trust and she will have the new president’s ear.

Her record indicates he is interested in her ability to repair the policy-making process that includes the White House and all federal agencies.

She served on Bill Clinton’s national security council from 1993 to 1997. After that, she was assistant secretary of state for African affairs for four years.

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