President Obama has officially appointed Susan Rice as his new National Security Adviser, replacing the retiring Tom Donilon.
The commander-in-chief made the announcement in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, calling Rice “fearless” and the “consummate public servant.”
“Susan understands there is no substitute for American leadership,” he said of Rice, who endured the GOP’s months-long obsession with Rice’s controversial remarks on several Sunday news shows last year in the wake of the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Rice told Obama at the White House ceremony that she was “deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me.”
Donilon will step aside starting in July. Obama also nominated Samantha Power, a human rights expert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former White House adviser, to replace Rice at the U.N.
Not surprisingly, the GOP wasn’t exactly thrilled about Rice’s return.
Many on the right have suggested that Rice knowingly peddled falsehoods to the American public about the deadly terror attack. The attack killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Earlier this month, the White House released 94 pages of emails showing Rice had nothing to do with crafting the talking points she read on the air in the days after the attack.
The GOP opposition over the Benghazi attack essentially derailed Rice’s chances of becoming secretary of state when Hillary Clinton stepped down as several Republicans vowed to block the nomination. Rice pulled herself out of the running in December, saying, “I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly.” But that’s not an issue with the national security adviser job; Senate approval is not necessary.
The news of Donilon’s departure isn’t a surprise. The 58-year-old had been expected to leave his post sometime this year, with many speculating Rice would be the one to replace him.
Still, some are interpreting this move as Obama finding a way to circumvent Republicans and offering an apology of sorts to Rice.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, who once accused Rice of “not being very bright” and promised to block her nomination as secretary of state, seems angry–but aware he has little recourse. “Obviously I disagree w/POTUS appointment of Susan Rice as Nat’l Security Adviser, but I’ll make every effort to work w/her on imp’t issues,” he tweeted. On Powers, McCain released a statement saying he believes “she is well-qualified for this important position and hope the Senate will move forward on her nomination as soon as possible.”
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has said Rice was “blatantly misleading the American people,” echoed McCain’s sentiment. She tweeted that Rice “did a disservice to the nation when she made misleading stmts abt #Benghazi. However its POTUS’ call & I’ll work with her going fwd.”
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was not as tepid. “I can’t imagine, one, that we would be keeping Ambassador Rice in any significant position, much less promoting her to an important position,” he told Fox News. “How will the administration ever have the authority for people to believe what they’re saying when they’re promoting someone who directly and deliberately misled the public over Benghazi?”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who also led the charge against Rice (and once said she’s “o disconnected to reality, I don’t trust her”), did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah tweeted “Judgment is key to national security matters. That alone should disqualify Susan Rice from her appointment. #benghazi #BadChoice.”
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers of told msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell that Obama’s pick was “curious.”
“Well, it’s curious that they would choose Ambassador Rice as the national security adviser, only because she’s such a political lightning rod now,” said the GOPer. He later added, “The point was how politically charged she is on Capitol Hill, to go to a post that is supposed to be void of political controversy. You want that to be as nonpartisan as you can.”
At least one Republican senator, however, is welcoming Rice with open arms. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia said on msnbc that Rice was “thrown under the bus and given the information that she repeated on the Sunday shows.” He added, “She’s a competent individual.”