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Rice out of running for secretary of state


February 19. 2013 10:01PM
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WASHINGTON — Susan Rice, the embattled U.N. ambassador, abruptly withdrew from consideration to be the next secretary of state on Thursday after a bitter, weekslong standoff with Republican senators who declared they would vigorously fight her nomination.


The reluctant announcement makes Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry the likely choice to be the nation's next top diplomat when Hillary Rodham Clinton departs soon. Support for the possible choice of Rice had been waning.


In another major part of the upcoming Cabinet shake-up for President Barack Obama's second term, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska now is seen as the front-runner to be defense secretary, with official word coming as soon as next week.


Obama has been weighing whether a Rice nomination would be worth the fight. He accepted her decision with a shot at Republicans.


While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, he said.


If Obama taps Kerry for state, the president will create a potential problem for Democrats by opening a Senate seat — one that recently defeated Republican Sen. Scott Brown is eyeing. Brown had been elected as Massachusetts' other senator in January 2010 after Democrat Ted Kennedy died, stunning the political world as he took the seat held by Kennedy for decades. Brown lost that seat in the November election.


Rice had become the face of the bungled administration account of what happened in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012 when four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed in what is now known to have been a terrorist attack.


Obama had defiantly declared he would chose her for secretary of state regardless of the political criticism, if he wanted, but such a choice could have depleted him of capital and gotten his second term off to a turbulent start with Capitol Hill. Already, Rice's withdrawal underscored Obama's difficulty in pursuing his next agenda in a time of divided and divisive government.


Rice withdrew her name in a letter to Obama — and in a media rollout aimed at upholding her reputation.


She said she was convinced the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities.


That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country, Rice said.


Rice may end up close to Obama's side in another way, as his national security adviser should Tom Donilon move on to another position. The security adviser position would not require Senate confirmation.




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