Let’s be real about the hoops that Susan Rice finds herself now navigating in order to save her potential nomination for the position of Secretary of State.
They are hoops structured, designed, and maintained by the persistence of white male privilege in America. They serve as reminders that though a new and rising diverse electoral coalition is undoubtedly in play, the overall paradigm of power and privilege in this nation remains firmly within the grasp of white men.
Let’s remind ourselves of how this whole thing began.
Days after a crushing victory gave rise to a second term for the Obama administration, the president’s first electoral foe stepped before the bright media spotlight with what appeared to be a chip on his shoulder. In classic McCain brooding and overbearing style, the senator proceeded with an attempt to undo the president’s anticipated pick for the nation’s next top diplomat even before the newly re-elected president had the opportunity to put a name firmly in play. It was in this moment that Senator McCain went on the attack.
In an appearance on Fox and Friends, McCain leveled serious and downright insulting charges against Ambassador Rice, stating boldly that she was possibly “unqualified,” suggesting that perhaps she didn’t “understand” the evidence surrounding the Benghazi incident, and then accusing her of outright lying to the American people by making statements which he believed were “patently false and defied common sense.”
And then the kicker: “I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State.”
Now, let’s deconstruct this a bit.
John McCain questioned the “qualifications” and “ability to understand” of someone who is both a Truman Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. Someone who holds not one, but two graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. from Oxford University, and someone who, by the way, earned that Ph.D. after winning an award for penning the best doctoral dissertation in the United Kingdom in the field of International Relations.
He assailed someone who has had, by any reasonable interpretation, a stellar public service career. Someone who served not only one, but two presidents of the United States. Someone who in her current role was successful in securing the most stringent UN sanctions to date against Iran and North Korea in order to scuttle nuclear weapons development. And someone who was instrumental in designing the resolution to the protracted Libyan clashes during that nation’s tumultuous period within the Arab Spring.
There is no doubt, Ambassador Rice is someone of extraordinary intellect, ability, and qualifications and to suggest otherwise in such a crass and disrespectful way is not only an indicator of partisanship run amuck, it quite clearly reeks of not only racism, not only sexism, but in fact smacks of both.
Of course McCain wasn’t alone in his rants. He was joined in his attacks by other Republican colleagues, most notably Senator Lindsey Graham and no fewer than 97 House Republicans who, despite having absolutely zero say in the selection or confirmation process, nonetheless had the brass, as Bill Clinton would say, to actually pen a letter to President Obama warning him against nominating Ambassador Rice to the Secretary of State position.
Even after meeting privately with her most vocal public critics, the attacks against Rice continue. Now at an even more fevered pitch, the accusations and innuendos surrounding Rice’s appearance on the Sunday morning news circuit a mere five days after the deadly attack and at a time when the full-scale investigation into the incident was in its infancy, quite simply don’t live up to the charge of intentional distortions, particularly given the facts that were available at the time and presented to the Ambassador.
When Ambassador Rice embarked upon her Sunday morning media appearances, she did so armed with declassified information provided to her by the intelligence community. To now, with the benefit of hindsight expect her to know then all we know today and make the conscious decision to divulge classified information to anyone, much less millions of people around the world, is patently ridiculous.
Understanding the fluid nature of the investigation, Ambassador Rice was careful to state repeatedly that an investigation was ongoing, that the investigation must be completed before drawing “any definitive conclusions.” And when asked about al-Qaeda involvement specifically, she notes, “We’ll have to find that out… whether they were al-Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al-Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.”
Clearly, these are the statements of a responsible and measured individual, carefully characterizing an on-going investigation with potentially volatile international repercussions, all while respecting the boundaries of classified vs. declassified intelligence information.
In short, she did her job.
As the drumbeat against the ambassador continues, it is time to say, quite simply— enough.
We will not stand idly by and watch another black woman publicly assailed, devalued and disrespected in the same vein as Prof. Lani Guinier and Former Surgeon General, Dr. Joceyln Elders. Bold sisters, led by Melanie Campbell of the Black Women’s Roundtable, and supported by a wide range of women’s organizations and other organizations, celebrities, and everyday individuals who deeply care about justice have crafted and signed a petition to be shared with Congress displaying reams of support for Ambassador Rice.
You can sign the petition too.
Let this be the day we all say,
Not on our watch!