(The Root) — Susan Rice, whose rumored nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was torpedoed because of the controversy surrounding the September 2012 deaths of American foreign-service members in Benghazi, Libya, will become America’s next national security adviser. Rice will become the second woman, second black woman and, coincidentally, the second woman with the surname “Rice” to serve in the role. Condoleezza Rice (no relation) previously served as national security adviser in the Bush administration before becoming secretary of state.
As we reported in March, Rice has been the rumored front-runner for the national security adviser role for months. She will succeed Tom Donilon. Replacing Rice as ambassador to the United Nations will be Samantha Power, who formerly served as named special assistant to President Obama and senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security Council (and who famously departed the Obama campaign in 2008 after referring to the future president’s primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, as a “monster.”)
The appointment serves as a vindication of sorts for Rice, who bore the brunt of the administration’s early criticism over its handling of the Benghazi tragedy and its aftermath. But her appointment also serves as a vindication for the president. He was initially a passionate defender of Rice, and when she withdrew her name from consideration for the secretary of state nomination, some wondered if she was bowing to external pressure as well as internal pressure from the White House. With Obama facing criticism for a lack of racial and gender diversity in his early second-term Cabinet appointments, Rice’s absence from his Cabinet became even more glaring.
But Rice’s comeback will also be seen as a political victory for the Obama White House. Rice’s setback earlier this year was collateral damage from the larger political fights taking place between the White House and leading Republicans. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was unable to beat Obama for the presidency five years ago, so instead he targeted the president’s friend and confidante and claimed a high-profile political scalp in the process. Yet as national security adviser, it is arguable that Rice will have an even greater role in shaping defense and other foreign policy alongside the president than she might have had as secretary of state.