United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice asked President Barack Obama today to take her name off the list of candidates he’s considering for the next secretary of state.
In a letter released late this afternoon, Rice told the president she believed she could be effective in the role but feared her confirmation process would be “lengthy, disruptive and costly” to the administration and its priorities.
“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country,” she wrote. “It is far more important that we devote precious legislative hours and energy to enacting your core goals, including comprehensive immigration reform, balanced deficit reduction, job creation, and maintaining a robust national defense and effective U.S. global leadership.”
Rice’s potential nomination faced stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers, who criticized her for statements she made after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. During interviews on several Sunday morning talk shows, Rice maintained the attack stemmed from spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. Administration officials later admitted the incident, during which Ambassador Chris Stevens died, was part of a coordinated terrorist attack.
Republicans accused Rice of knowingly participating in a political smokescreen to shield the president from criticism right before the election. She claimed she only gave the talking points provided by the intelligence community. But testimony from former CIA Director David Petraeus later revealed early descriptions of the incident did label the raid a terrorist attack.
In a statement accepting her withdrawal, the president praised Rice as a “key member” of his national security team.
“While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first,” Obama said. “The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”
Rice intends to continue serving as UN ambassador.
The president had a very short list to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was the only other name mentioned publicly as a serious contender for the job.