Why Folks Need to Get Off Susan Rice’s Bumper

by Liane Membis

The Republican backed fire that’s been sparked under Susan Rice’s seat has been flaming hot ever since President Barack Obama openly defended the U.N. Ambassador to replace current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Right-wing critics have attempted to back Rice into a corner, riding on her bumper about the way she addressed the September 12, 2012, Benghazi attacks in Libya.

Ninety-seven House Republicans signed a letter to the president last week, expressing their deep concerns over Rice’s potential nomination, claiming that Rice’s media comments on Libya five days after the attack—the claim the assaults were caused by protestors who were upset over an anti-Muslim YouTube instead of terrorists—“caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world.”

Are the oppositionists to Rice right to shoot the messenger? Or are they just plain haters who are unwilling to watch a black woman rise?

Perhaps we don’t play the race card. Is there a valid argument about Rice’s ability to wear the white hat and sit at the big boy’s table in Washington?

Rice has taken responsibility for the misleading information that first hit the public in the wake of the Benghazi attacks, but says her reason for doing so was to protect the nation’s intelligence and anti-terrorist efforts.

“I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers,” NBC reports of Rice saying to reporters at the United Nations.

Furthermore, former CIA Director David Petraeus recently testified that Rice’s talking points in those crucial days after the attacks reflected a need to help national officials get their work done. Intelligence officers did not want terrorist groups in eastern Libya to catch wind that the United States knew of their involvement in order to access appropriate information.

With these reveals, Republican oppositions have now simmered their tone against Rice—but not without backstabbing efforts to tarnish Rice’s reputation. Beyond Benghazi, her opposition has attempted to paint her as a mad woman by recalling a 2008 standoff with McCain over his “reckless” foreign policies in Iraq and an instance when she flipped her middle finger at a higher up as an assistant secretary of state.

So, sister girl got mad. Big deal. Sister girl got opinions. Don’t we all?

  • ZoraJD

    I am so glad that Clutch is covering this. I just read ABC News’ article on Rice and all I could take from it was “Highly educated black woman who doesn’t know her place.” All of the code words were there –i.e. describing her as smart but “abrasive” and “aggressive.” It always boggles my mind how people think that diplomacy is all about tea parties and sleep overs. Would ANYONE consider Hillary Clinton to be docile? Susan Rice is a Truman AND Rhodes Scholar, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford. She has served in three presidential administrations in an international advisory capacity, has worked for McKinsey & Company and The Brookings Institute. The primary criticisms that have been leveled against her would earn a high five if she had a penis. The fact that she has a bit more melanin and no penis means she is going to be characterized as a harpy who doesn’t know her “place.”

  • Chillyroad

    You can’t imagine the things that have been said about Hillary Clinton even before she formally entered politics. She was nominated by a Democratic President. It’s par for the course. It isn’t always about race or gender. Black women in politics shouldn’t be protected just because. I don’t want to have to defend Mia Love.

  • Beautiful Mic

    For me, it’s not that she doesn’t know her place, it’s the way she’s being placed on a pedestal and shielded from ridicule that is concerning. That’s never a good thing, especially in government.

  • ZoraJD

    @Chillyroad, I am actually very well-versed in the disparaging comments that were made about Hillary Clinton (back when she was Hillary Rodham Clinton) and the entire Clinton family. That is largely part of the irony of this entire debacle.

    My comment was primarily made to celebrate that at least ONE media outlet is looking at the racial and gender aspects of this issue that unfortunately always influences “scandals” such as this. (My use of quotations is intentional as the security lapses at Bengazi, while problematic, speak to a much larger habit our Congress has of slashing funding and then complaining when bad things happen because the funding was cut.)

    As for “defending” a black woman just because she is black, I don’t believe that my post indicated that at all. My focus was upon the media narrative that, at this point, is so trite and hackneyed that, as you astutely noted, is basically par for the course. The minute Susan Rice ended up in Republican cross hairs, the “playbook” for this whole fiasco was rather evident. All criticism would have a tinge of racism and sexism. That doesn’t negate the criticism per se but it does allow one to view the criticism in another light.

    While I was not a fan of Mia Love, I was amused that some of the traditional criticisms of black women weren’t employed in media coverage of her. Somehow, by being a conservative, she “rose above” the Sapphire stereotype. Or was it simply that she played for the “team” that wields these stereotypes most often? I mean they couldn’t attack a member of their own team. Ann Coulter’s election comments about conservative’s “blacks” certainly indicate that there is a good deal of cognitive dissonance in the more extreme factions of the Right.

    But again, it is par for the course. Whether something is the status quo or not, an issue such as this is worthy of further discussion. It remains a reminder to women like me who work in corporate America and deal with this mess every day that it isn’t just me, that this mess plays out everywhere — even with women far more academically accomplished than I am.

  • ZoraJD

    I don’t believe that is the case at all. It is fairly clear that there is a desire to scapegoat Rice. How is calling Rice into a closed meeting, her name being dragged through the mud and her qualifications being questioned placing her on a pedastal?

    The point is of this post and my comments is that the narrative is troubling. There is a means of conducting a real investigation that doesn’t require ridicule. It is called relying on the facts.

    So about those facts. There are facts, supported by the testimony of Petreaus, Panetta and the head of the NSA, that clearly indicate that the CIA, NSA, State Department and FBI worked to create very specific talking points, largely crafted to insure that classified information was not compromised. How should Rice be ridiculed for doing her job? Should she have gone rogue? The Administration sent her out with a specific message. We all piled on Corey Booker for going “off script” right and that was just over silly campaign messaging. A true diplomat takes their mission/orders and carries them out. Hillary Clinton has never “gone rogue.” By the way, Rice’s comments and Clinton’s comments were nearly identical. Have Clinton’s qualifications as Secretary of State being questioned? Has Clinton been deposed by the House Intelligence Committee? That would be a no.

    Also interesting facts? McCain and Graham were buddy-buddy with Gaddafi, meeting with him less than 8-10 months prior to his overthrow and promising him guns and other weapons. They have a need to redeem themselves and can’t seem to be able to attack the President.

    I think there needs to be some context here.

    I might note that the President has accepted that the buck stops with him. Rice has noted the nuances of this issue.

    This isn’t about defending someone because they are black. It is about looking at the facts and then looking at the narrative and realizing that part of this narrative is influenced by race and gender. We can conduct an inquiry into what happened in Bengazi but with the current political landscape, I find it interesting that the messenger (not the person who made the security decisions) is the person being offered up for ridicule. More importantly, much of this ridicule centers on making criticisms that are based upon gender and race. We can make fair criticisms but let’s not ignore the double standard.

  • Anthony

    The great irony is that John McCain is a pure example of someone who has gotten where he is in life due to legacy and dumb luck instead of merit. He was the son of an admiral who was a mediocre student. From what I have heard he was a mediocre pilot, which was part of the reason he was shot down and imprisoned. He divorced the wife who stuck with him while he was a POW, and then married into money. In terms of politics, he has always been willing to ignore or even encourage ugly racial issues only to apologize after the fact when he has nothing to gain from it. This is what he did when he voted against the MLK holiday or when he refused to criticize the confederate flag in South Carolina.

    Susan Rice, on the other hand, is an outstanding scholar and a very hard worker. Her father was a black member of the Federal Reserve when such a thing was virtually unheard of, so she knows what it is to strive in an environment that is hostile. McCain, Graham, and Ayotte aren’t good enough to shine her shoes or scoop the poop up after her dog if she has one.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    This is what Republicans do. They attacked Desiree Rogers. They attacked Mrs. Shirley Sherrod. And now they’re attacking Ambassador Rice. Hopefully the President will continue to stand up for Ms. Rice and nominate her for Secretary of State when the time comes. She deserves it.

  • sdog

    One major piece of information that has been left out of the narrative on SR’s background is that SR was one of two people who advised Bill Clinton NOT to intervene during the genocide in Rwanda, this is what makes her elevation to Sec of State problematic for me.

  • Anthony

    I have no problems with substantive criticisms of Rice’s policy stances. What irks me is the fact that she is being used as a political football over something that she had no power over.

    Personally, the fact that they overthrew Qaddafi and unleashed the weapons that have destroyed Nothern Mali and ultimately killed the Libyan ambassador is a real problem for me. The irony is that war happy McCain would never see that as a mistake.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    from the rachel madow show : it’s not about rice at all. if the republicans can force rice out and get john kerry in as SOS, that will open up a senate seat in mass. they can then run scott brown for that open seat and hope to alter the control in the senate.

  • Misshightower


  • Misshightower

    You got it, James!

  • Caramel

    No worse then the repubs heckling bama on the congressional floor!!!!!!! Do what you need to do girl, the ancestors are all rooting for you!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anthony

    The Cecil Rhodes bit is pointless to me. It’s a great scholarship, why not take the money? As for the Obama policy in Libya and the blow back in West Africa, especially Mali, that is a disgrace. If Obama weren’t so itent on cracking Arab heads to impress white folks who will still call him a Muslim terrorist supporter no matter what he does, none of his would have happened.

    I think Obama should visit Kenya during his second term. I also think that China in Africa is something that the West really has no way to counteract short of direct military intervention that they cannot really afford.

  • Rakel

    Glad you guys covered this. if anyone is so inclined there is a petition in support of Ms. Rice:


  • Tracy

    Exactly,we get emotional because she a black woman but to me she’s just like condelezza, staying quiet while africa gets destroyed.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    that is very disturbing, i’m not fan of this administration’s handling of Africa, she is little too close to the smoke not to be stained.

  • Nzingha

    Liane membris,
    Please do an arrant background test on Susan Rice’s involvement in Africa , investments, and policies and then come back and write this letter. Your blog post shows how misinformed you are about Ms. Rice. It is not only the Republicans that are lobbying against Ms.Rice it is also liberals. I feel like you are coming to her defense because she is a black woman??!

  • Anthony

    My point is that the endowment for the Rhodes Fellowships was established well over 100 years ago. Using your logic, there are very few older awards black people should accept.

  • Stone

    Wonderful comment on the Rhodes joint…..one of my greatest pleasures was urinating on his sculpture while i visited Zimbabwe….i supported Rice until i was informed of her investments in the pipeline.
    Just another greedy individual

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