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La Repubblica, Italy

Susan Rice Withdraws
as Secretary of State Candidate

By Angelo Aquaro

Translated By Francesca Baldanzi

13 December 2012

Edited by Rachel Smith

Italy - La Repubblica - Original Article (Italian)

After Rice announced she was dropping out of the running, the president acknowledged her decision, saying, "I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks.” Rice came under heavy criticism from Republicans over her framing of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, during which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens died. As she steps aside, conversations between Republicans and the president reopen.

There won't be another Rice at the State Department in the position which Condoleezza once filled. In an unconventional move, Susan Rice announced her withdrawal in a public letter to President Obama. She was surrounded by controversy; Republicans kept attacking what they called her cover-up in Benghazi, her silence on al-Qaida's role and her blaming of the American anti-Islam film.

The ambassador's withdrawal was a diplomatic move that allowed the Obama administration to reopen a dialogue with the opposition. Shortly before the letter was sent and Obama acknowledged her "withdrawal" in a statement, the White House leaked that the next secretary of state might be former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

While the administration’s reshaping was taking place, another announcement coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. spread new light on the whole operation: The president announced he was waiting on House Speaker John Boehner, who a few hours beforehand had once again rejected Obama's proposal on the fiscal cliff.

Was Rice’s head a bargaining chip in the most difficult negotiations of the year? Perhaps it was; as she wrote in her letter to Obama, "If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country.”

It was a painful decision but clearly arranged. Obama strongly and publicly defended Rice’s 20 years of experience in foreign relations and human rights, which date back to Bill Clinton's administration. Up against Republicans’ criticism, including that of his ex-rival, John McCain, Obama let it be known that going after Rice meant going after him, declaring that instead, "They should go after me.”

The Benghazi incident, with the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, risked crushing the administration and the election itself. First were Mitt Romney’s accusations during the presidential campaign of Obama’s administration covering up the implications of al-Qaida's involvement. Then came further controversy involving the CIA and ex-General Petraeus, who confessed to an extramarital affair; Obama's card shuffling risked being blocked.

Foreign and economic policy are now intertwining in the final rush. In a statement, Obama defended Rice and condemned the attacks on her, and said she will continue in the indispensable role of U.S. ambassador to the UN. It is even rumored she may have a future as national security adviser. Obama emphasized that "Her decision demonstrates the strength of her character and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first.”

But the "politics of the moment" are already at work. After the moral victory of Rice’s farewell, opposition leader John Boehner returned overnight to the White House to meet once again on the fiscal cliff. With no deal on this matter by Christmas, spending cuts and tax hikes may bring the U.S., and the entire world, into a new recession. Will the sacrifice of the U.S. ambassador to the UN and the cherry-on-top nomination of a former Republican senator to the position of secretary of state be enough to spare the U.S. that unbearable pain?



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