From Rice, a crisp retreat — translated

December 13, 2012

The saga of Susan Rice, once and future U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who has now withdrawn her name from consideration to become the next secretary of state, has been a case of choose-your-own-villain. 

Was it hyper-partisanship that did her in? Was it people’s unreadiness to accept a woman with her particular collection of strengths and weaknesses? Was it racism? Sexism? Was she too ready to throw herself under the bus?

There are plenty of villains. Not many heroes, though. 

But studying Rice’s letter withdrawing her name from consideration for the nomination, what struck me was the need for a translation. Rice, no matter what anyone says about her “sharp elbows,” is far more diplomatic than I would be in the circumstances. Here is a franker version of what she sets down. 

Dear Mr. President, 

It has been and remains my highest professional privilege to serve as your United Nations ambassador. I am deeply grateful for your steadfast support for all we do at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and for my dedicated colleagues. Your vision and leadership have enabled the U.S. to restore our global standing, strengthen our national security, repair our relationship with the United Nations, and advance U.S. interests and values. I am proud of the many U.S. successes at the United Nations, including the protection of civilians from Libya to Cote D’Ivoire, strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime and increasing international pressure on Iran and North Korea through the toughest sanctions ever, our unwavering support for Israel, our contribution to the birth of the world’s newest state, South Sudan, accelerating U.N. reform, and our bold defense of the equal rights of all human beings regardless of their race, religion, economic status or whom they love. I look forward to building on this major progress in your second term.

Dear Mr. President,

Notice, I am doing a very important job right now. Here are just a few of the impressive things I have accomplished while doing it. Nuclear non-proliferation? Repair our relationship with the U.N.? Heck, contribute to the birth of a country? Those look like good qualifications, don’t you think? That’s certainly how they seem to me. I contributed to the birth of a new COUNTRY, for crying out loud. You know who else did that? George Washington. He would totally have waltzed through the nomination process for any office he chose, with a qualification like that. But it’s okay. Really.

I am highly honored to be considered by you for appointment as secretary of state. I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy disruptive and costly— to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country. 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. Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.

You know what, I would be a great secretary of state. But these twerps in the Senate are being HUGE JERKS about it, and I don’t want to sit in front of the country undergoing a proctological examination when we could be, I don’t know, DOING IMPORTANT THINGS. 

Look, in my spare time just now I made a list of things less enjoyable than being yelled at by senators for several months while the nation watches, and one of them is childbirth. The other one is having your leg amputed without an anesthetic. I am confident that this is a comprehensive list. 

Also, if this nomination went forward, America would run out of Rice puns. No one wants that. 

The position of secretary of state should never be politicized. As someone who grew up in an era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S. national security official who has served in two U.S. administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate. We cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from the most pressing issues facing the American people.

This is why we can’t have nice things, America. This right here. I’m not saying I’m the best or the only choice for the office. Far from it. But if you wonder why people like Al Gore and Mitt Romney become huge national figures, it’s because no sane or normal human wants to endure this level of scrutiny or weather this kind of approval process. Now I know why Mrs. Alito cried. They had pictures of me in high school on BUZZFEED, for crying out loud. In weird sweaters. And I wasn’t even NOMINATED yet. 

You don’t believe this is a problem? Look at who runs for president!

I would say maybe, maybe one in eight people who runs is anywhere near hailing distance of Sane And Normal. Not including you, of course. Or Hillary.

No, wait, including Hillary, come to think of it. Thanks for sticking your neck out for me, Madam Secretary! That was super. I appreciated it. 

I am grateful, as always, for your unwavering confidence in me and, especially, for your extraordinary personal support during these past several weeks. I look forward to continuing to serve you and our great country with enthusiasm and pride as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and as a member of your Cabinet and National Security Council.

Oh, and enjoy Senator Scott Brown, Massachusetts! 

Sincerely, 

Susan E. Rice

UGHHHHH, REALLY?

Susan E. Rice

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.
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Alexandra Petri | December 13, 2012