According to U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and a few others, harsh Republican criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice has been motivated by racism and sexism, not by any role she might have played regarding the attacks on our consulate in Benghazi.
The editorial board of the Washington Post recently made a similar suggestion, noting that 97 House members have taken the very rare step of sending a letter to the president opposing a possible Rice nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. (The House, remember, has no constitutional role in the confirmation of Cabinet nominees.) As the Post pointed out, “more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy.”
Personally, I think that explanation is far-fetched at best. There’s no evidence whatsoever that racism is involved, and making such a serious charge without evidence to support it is simply wrong.
That said, however, I can see how Clyburn and others could have come to that conclusion. There is no logical, rational explanation for the intensity of the criticism directed at Rice, who as UN ambassador had no operational responsibility for Benghazi and was only serving as an administration spokesperson on the topic. At best, she was a bit player in that tragedy. And with no logical, rational explanation available, it is only natural to turn to the illogical and irrational for an explanation. Thus, the racism charge.
Again, I think the charge is false. But racism also would help to explain why almost no Republican criticism has been directed at Clinton herself, the person who actually runs the State Department and is responsible for what happens at our embassies and consulates. As secretary, Clinton is also responsible for what Rice was told to say publicly about Benghazi. Yet it’s Rice, not Clinton, who has become the target of criticism.
In recent days, however, another possible if convoluted explanation has begun to emerge. The political attacks on Rice have been led by U.S. Sen. John McCain, who has made it no secret that he would prefer that fellow senator John Kerry be named our next secretary of State. In fact, while taking part in a press conference today, McCain jokingly referred to Kerry as “Mr. Secretary” instead of as senator. (Upon taking the microphone from McCain, a wry Kerry responded “Thank you very much, Mr. President.”)
That’s where things get interesting. If Kerry does become our next secretary of state, he would have to leave the Senate, leaving an open seat in Massachusetts. Scott Brown, recently defeated by Elizabeth Warren, would be perfectly positioned to run in a special election to replace Kerry.
And Brown, it turns out, is a particular favorite of McCain. The Arizona Republican serves with Brown on the Senate Armed Services Committee and took part in ceremonies last summer when Brown, a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, was promoted to colonel. Campaigning for Brown in October, McCain said “this man is the one I want most in the United States Senate.”
In most cases, the simplest explanation is also the most accurate, but in this case there is no simple explanation for McCain’s behavior. The notion that by vilifying Rice and elevating Kerry, McCain might be trying to help Brown return to the Senate makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard, including the racism angle.
– Jay BookmanI