For State job, Susan Rice or John Kerry?

National Journal reports: “President Obama is said to be ‘genuinely conflicted’ about whether to nominate his favored candidate, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, or Sen. [John] Kerry as his next secretary of state, two aides said. Rice faces stiff resistance from some Republican senators — as well as grumbling among some foreign-policy elites who question her suitability — yet the GOP objections may backfire, making the president even more likely to nominate her so as not to be seen as backing down.”

I know how he feels. On one hand, Rice is undiplomatic in the extreme. National Journal’s Michael Hirsh writes:

A longtime foreign-policy expert who has worked for Democratic administrations, and has dealt with Rice personally, also raised questions about her suitability. “She’s quite smart but temperamentally unfit for the job” because she doesn’t brook disagreement well, this expert said. “Her voice is always right on the edge of a screech. You want somebody who has a sense of authority. It’s like [Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner at the beginning. He had no air of authority about him.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) at a news conference Monday, urging Senate passage of an international treaty on disabled persons. (Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

On the other hand, Kerry went to great lengths to suck up to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and perpetuate the notion he is a “reformer.” We hear Kerry can’t make up his mind on anything.

In carrying the White House water that no one else would lift on Benghazi, Rice showed she has no mind of her own.

Kerry has never managed anything.

Rice could well be filibustered, proving to be an embarrassment to the president.

Kerry, like Vice President Biden, has got just about every foreign policy issue wrong (the nuclear freeze, the surge, Syria, Vladimir Putin) — but then so has the president. Rice, on the other hand, has an infamously bad record on Africa. (Ask the Clintons if you doubt it.)

I see Obama’s dilemma. Really, neither one of them are solid choices, although senators on both sides of the aisle would be delighted to foist the infamously snooty Kerry onto Foggy Bottom.

Moreover, it doesn’t much matter who is there since foreign policy will continue to be made out of the White House (arguing for Rice to go to the National Security Council slot). In that regard, Kerry’s ego may prove more difficult for the president to harness while Rice has proved to be a docile surrogate.

The president’s decision may well depend on unrelated events. If the “fiscal-cliff” negotiations go badly and we head for a recession, a strategy of reconciliation with Congress (i.e., dump Rice) may be in order. If Obama is riding high politically and can’t resist another shot at the GOP (can he ever?) he might take Rice, leaving Kerry in the wings in case she is defeated.

From my perspective, it makes no sense to have a three-ring confirmation hearing and lose over a subpar nominee such as Rice. But that’s the sort of equation that Obama routinely embraces. And we might finally get some answers on Benghazi.

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