Rice exits top diplomat post race, paving path for Kerry

Rice exits top diplomat post race, paving path for Kerry

Rice exits top diplomat post race, paving path for Kerry

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice asks Obama to withdraw her name from consideration as the next secretary of state after becoming a lightning rod for the White House’s handling of the raid on the US consulate in Benghazi. AFP photo

Susan Rice has asked President Barack Obama not to pick her as his next secretary of state, after becoming a lightning rod for Republicans over a raid on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11.

“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,” Rice said in a letter to Obama. Rice would have faced strong opposition from Senate Republicans who challenged her much-maligned televised comments about the cause of the deadly raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Her efforts to satisfy Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Susan Collins in unusual, private sessions fell short. The Republicans emerged from the meetings still expressing doubts about her qualifications.

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In a Washington Post op-ed Rice defended her controversial statements about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. mission in Libya and struck back at Republican lawmakers who had vowed to block her path to becoming the top diplomat.

“As it became clear that my potential nomination would spark an enduring partisan battle, I concluded that it would be wrong to allow this debate to continue distracting from urgent national priorities,” Rice wrote.

“As someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S. national security official who has served in two U.S. administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point.”

Her announcement makes Massachusetts Senator John Kerry the likely choice to be the nation’s next top diplomat.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political divide agreed that her departure opened the door for Kerry, the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry, the defeated 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, did not comment on his chances, but issued a warm statement empathizing with Rice. “As someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands on a personal level just how difficult politics can be, I’ve felt for her throughout these last difficult weeks,” Kerry said.

Rice, currently U.S. envoy to the United Nations, is a longtime member of Obama’s inner circle and had been a favorite to succeed Hillary Clinton as the top U.S. diplomat. Obama issued a statement condemning the “unfair and misleading attacks” on her and said she would stay on as U.N. ambassador with a spot on his Cabinet. Rice, too, said in her letter that she would be staying.

The president and his U.N. envoy were set to meet on Dec. 14 at the White House. “While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character,” Obama said.

Clinton, in a brief statement, said Rice had “been an indispensable partner over the past four years” and that she was confident “that she will continue to represent the United States with strength and skill.”

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.