A New York Times op-ed titled, “Susan Rice and Africa’s Despots,” received harsh criticism from Michael O’Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, who called the piece’s argument “absurd.”
During an appearance on Andrea Mitchell Reports, O’Hanlon said the piece didn’t “resonate well with him at first,” and he objected to the argument that suggested Rice “had been too friendly to various African strongmen.”
Salem Solomon, who wrote the editorial, said, Rice “has shown a surprising and unsettling sympathy for Africa’s despots.” These leaders included Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia; Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Jerry J. Rawlings of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda.
O’Hanlon told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that, after reading the op-ed, he did his own research and realized that some of the leaders mentioned had run five of the best countries in Africa, in terms of “economic importance and eternal stability,” making Rice’s relationship with them purposeful.
“It doesn’t mean everything’s perfect and I’m sure Ambassador Rice wouldn’t suggest everything perfect in countries like Uganda and Rwanda and Ethiopia and South Africa,” O’Hanlon said. “But nonetheless there’s been progress in all these places and we’ve sometimes had to work with people who weren’t perfect but this author made it seem like she was guilty by association.”
O’Hanlon noted that Rice’s relationship with these leaders were beneficial to both the U.S. and Africa.
Mitchell then turned the conversation to the criticism of Rice’s handling of Benghazi talking points and her possible appointment as Secretary of State. O’Hanlon defended Rice’s involvement.
“Further scrutiny on Benghazi will show that the United States government did not make its best set of decisions on protecting the Consulate,” O’Hanlon told Mitchell. “Ambassador Rice had very little to do with those decisions and I think what role she played in this controversy is already well-known.”
O’Hanlon mentioned that people have already informed their opinions on Rice’s talking points following the incident but said “the gist of her messages were generally about right,” and the Benghazi issue “won’t affect her more than it has.”