From the Daily Beast
by Jacob Heilbrunn Dec 14, 2012
The ambassador built her career on catering to authority, even some of Africa’s most loathsome dictators. Why the Libya fiasco had nothing to do with the Beltway insider’s demise.
With her decision to withdraw from consideraion as secretary of state, Susan Rice-and her greatest champion, President Obama-is finally bowing to the inevitable. Her supporters concocted any number of reasons to promote her ascension to the top floor of Foggy Bottom. She was, they said, being demonized by the right. She was being subjected to racism. She was just trying to please her superiors. And so on.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria in August in New York. (Stephen Chernin/AFP/Getty Images)
Don’t believe a word of it. The real problem is not that she bungled Libya. It’s that she should never have been ambassador to the United Nations in the first place-let alone become secretary of state.
Until recently, Rice was smoothly on track to become the Edmund Hillary of foreign-policy strivers. But unlike the legendary climber, she only glimpsed but never quite reached the summit. Her entire career has been based less on solid accomplishment than on her networking skills. In that regard, she exquisitely represents her generation, which largely consists of unwise men and women.
Even a cursory look at Rice’s résumé should induce some queasiness. Essentially, she was molded in Washington, D.C. She punched all the right tickets-National Cathedral School, Stanford, Rhodes scholarship, Brookings Institution. She is a perfect creature of the Beltway. But the downside is that there is scant evidence that she ever flourished outside the cozy ecosystem of the foreign-policy establishment.
It has not always been thus. Henry Kissinger produced serious books about international affairs. Further back, Dean Acheson was a successful lawyer. James Baker was both a shrewd lawyer and political operative whose wheeler-dealer skills translated well into dealing with foreign allies and adversaries. Now it’s not necessary to be all of these things at once. No one would claim that Hillary Clinton is a Kissingerian-style intellectual. But Clinton’s stature and political prowess allowed her to crack heads during the recent Gaza crisis.
What would Rice have brought to the State Department? The most she seems to have accomplished outside the foreign-policy world is to serve a stint as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. Otherwise, she has produced no memorable books or articles or even op-ed essays. The most interesting thing about Rice has been the kerfuffle over her move to become secretary of state.