The Amazing Comeback of Susan Rice

Ambassador Susan Rice (Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images)
Ambassador Susan Rice (Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images)

(The Root) — There have been plenty of second acts in politics, from former President Bill Clinton surviving a sex-turned-impeachment scandal, to former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry returning to public life from a crack-and-prostitute scandal. But rarely do political comebacks happen in the span of a few short months.


And yet that appears to be the case for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice (not that anyone is comparing her Benghazi troubles to the very real transgressions of the aforementioned politicians). After her humiliating withdrawal from contention as a secretary of state nominee, Rice is said to be the Obama administration's front-runner for national security adviser.

For those wondering how a woman who had little chance of being confirmed as secretary of state can be confirmed as national security adviser, the answer is, she doesn't have to be. National security adviser is not an official cabinet post and therefore does not require Senate confirmation; however, the post is one of the most influential within a presidential administration in terms of shaping high-level foreign policy.

Condoleezza Rice used the role as a stepping-stone to secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. Her tenure as national security adviser is remembered as one of the most influential in recent memory — but not necessarily in a good way. It was in that role that Rice is credited (or, rather, blamed by many) with helping to justify the costly, and now largely viewed as misguided, war in Iraq.

While not a cabinet post, national security adviser is quite an admirable consolation prize for Susan Rice, who would be only the second woman to serve in the position, should all go according to rumored plan. It could be a redemptive opportunity for Rice, who was thwarted by her perceived weaknesses in answering questions related to the Benghazi, Libya, tragedy, and ultimately became collateral damage in the ongoing post-2008 presidential-election grudge-fest between Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the man who beat him.

This twist of fate could also serve as a moment of redemption for President Obama. His administration has struggled with criticism regarding the lack of gender and racial diversity among both his cabinet and high-level advisers. He faced particular criticism from black Americans who wondered why the president seemed so committed to fighting for white male nominees like former Sen. Chuck Hagel, now secretary of defense, and yet seemed quick to waver on Rice.

Should she become national security adviser, some of that criticism may subside. But as Rice's last public battle reminds us, no one should count any chickens before they hatch — or, in her case, begin printing up any business cards until the swearing-in is officially over.


Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter