Though the discussion appears to be moot now that Susan Rice has apparently withdrawn her name from consideration to be secretary of state, I agree with Max that the criticism of Rice’s undiplomatic style would seem to be complements when coming from conservatives. But I fear an important point is being lost: this criticism was not coming from the right, by and large. The attacks on Rice’s disposition have been driven by the left. Indeed, what is remarkable about the controversy over Rice is how thoroughly the left took command of it–and greatly expanded the effort to prevent her nomination.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Republicans on the Hill had basically limited their critique of Rice to her misleading statements following the Benghazi attack. Liberals, on the other hand, made it personal. Dana Milbank suggested Rice had an attitude problem. Maureen Dowd said Rice was too ambitious and unprincipled for her own good–or the country’s. Yesterday at the Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove launched a bizarre attack on Rice that accused her of having a personality disorder. The left has also been driving the less personal attacks as well. Howard French said Rice’s Africa legacy is the further empowerment of dictators. Human Rights Watch’s Tom Malinowski knocked Rice for essentially enabling atrocities in Congo.
Meanwhile, it should not go unnoticed that Hillary Clinton made her opposition to Rice clear to officials in Washington, which may explain the avalanche of leaks and criticism and personal sniping that came from the left as soon as the battle commenced. All of which makes Ben Smith’s piece at Buzzfeed today, headlined “Why The Republican War On Susan Rice Is A Terrible Idea,” so strange. Smith, usually more politically astute than this, allowed himself to be spun by Rice’s few allies to attack the right just as criticism of Rice from the left is everywhere (the Atlantic, for example, can’t seem to stop bashing Rice).
The lack of quotes of actual Republicans criticizing Rice in Smith’s article should be a clue that the GOP had not led this fight for quite some time now. Smith even mentions Dowd’s column as evidence of shifting GOP tactics, knocking the right for “circulating” Dowd’s piece. (Welcome to the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Maureen Dowd!)
In any event, Max is right that conservatives would have found more to like about Rice than most would-be Obama nominees, and that her confrontational style would have been even more needed in an Obama administration promising “flexibility” to Russia. Here at COMMENTARY, we’ve defended Rice from both the left and the right. You won’t find the same evenhandedness at the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, the New York Times, or the countless other liberal outlets that just killed Rice’s nomination.