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Susan Rice Withdraws Name For Secretary Of State


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Audie Cornish.

And we begin this hour with the end of a bitter political battle.

AMBASSADOR SUSAN RICE: Today I made the decision that it was the best thing for our country, for the American people that I not continue to be considered by the president for nomination of secretary of state.

CORNISH: That's United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice speaking to NBC News. Rice had long been a leading contender to succeed Hillary Clinton who has said she would like to step down early next year. But a chorus of Republican senators who believe Rice misled the nation about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya made clear they would fight her nomination. In a letter to President Obama today, Rice wrote that if she were nominated the confirmation battle would be lengthy, disruptive and costly.

Joining us with the latest from the White House is NPR's Mara Liasson. And, Mara, translate that phrase for us: lengthy, disruptive and costly.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, it means that Rice determined - and the White House determined - that either she couldn't be confirmed or at least not at a reasonable cost, that if she did go up, it would be a knock-down, drag-out fight that might take a lot of the president's political capital and perhaps poison his relations with Congress on other issues.

Remember, Rice was under fire for the talking points about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador dead. She had originally characterized it as a spontaneous demonstration that turned into a deadly attack. Later, that turned out not to be true. She said she was merely repeating talking points that had been provided for her by the intelligence community.

President Obama strongly backed her, and she went up to the Hill to test the waters, to see what kind of a reception she would get if she were nominated. But those meetings didn't go well, and the Republicans seemed to be willing to block her.

CORNISH: So what's next for Susan Rice and also for the secretary of state job?

LIASSON: Well, the president is very loyal to Rice. Don't forget she's been with him a long time. She was his foreign policy adviser during the campaign. The question is, what else would she want to do other than U.N. ambassador? Does she want the national security adviser's job? Some White House aides say, no, she's happy where she is. She wants to stay at the U.N.

She might be able to have another top job in the future. But right now, it looks like she's staying there. It's also a little bit unclear what other vacancies there will be.

CORNISH: Now the president has a lot of personnel decisions to make soon, not just for secretary of state. What are some of the considerations?

LIASSON: Well, he has a lot of personnel decisions to make. Who goes to the CIA to replace David Petraeus? Is that Tom Donilon, the current national security adviser or not? Who goes to Defense? We know that former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has been vetted for that job.

The secretary of state's position now is open, and on the short list along with Rice was John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator, who many Republicans in the Senate say would sail through the confirmation process. So the president has a lot of jobs to fill, and in the coming weeks we should be getting a lot of nominations.

CORNISH: And do we anticipate that secretary of state nomination or another name to be floated soon?

LIASSON: I have no idea when that might happen, but I think that there will now be a tremendous amount of chatter about John Kerry and who might replace him in Massachusetts if that happens.

CORNISH: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson from the White House. Mara, thank you for speaking with us.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.