The trouble with Susan Rice: Her record on Iran, Israel, human rights and more

by ANNE BAYEFSKY AND MICHAEL B. MUKASEY December 2, 2012

Several Republican senators continue to oppose the possible nomination of Susan Rice, currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to be secretary of state in President Obama's second term. Their opposition stems largely from Ms. Rice's repeated insistence, five days after terrorists murdered four Americans at a U.S. facility in Libya, that the slaughter stemmed from spontaneous Muslim rage over an amateur video. Sen. John McCain at one point called Ms. Rice "unfit" for the job.

To assess fitness, one might look at those who served previously as secretary of state. More than one has said or done foolish things, or served without notable distinction.

 In 1929, Henry Stimson dismantled the nation's only cryptographic facility, located in the State Department, with the airy observation that gentlemen don't read one another's mail. (He sobered up by World War II, when as secretary of war he oversaw a robust code-breaking effort.) More recently, Clinton administration Secretary of State Warren Christopher diminished the office by making several futile pilgrimages to Syria, where he once waited on his airplane for over half an hour in Damascus before being told that Syrian dictator Hafez Assad was too busy to see him. Assad calculated correctly that the slap would be cost-free.

By this modest standard, some might find that Susan Rice is fit. But moral fitness is also relevant, and it is in that category that the Benghazi episode is relevant.

The president has said that Ms. Rice should not be criticized because she "had nothing to do with Benghazi" and so couldn't have known better when she gave her false account. According to Mr. Obama (and to her), she simply repeated talking points provided by an amorphous and anonymous "intelligence community." 

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