I am under no illusion that Samantha Power or Susan Rice will convince the president to act in Syria or make regime change in Iran our policy or make improved human rights a condition for improved relations with China, Russia or any other country on the planet.
Susan Rice earned her stripes saying the most ludicrous things on national television because the White House wanted her to. Speak truth to power? You’ve got the wrong gal.
Nothing personal to Power, but a United Nations ambassador doesn’t make national security policy and isn’t responsible for much. (Hence, the lunacy of having Rice opine on national television on Benghazi, Libya.) We have had great ones (e.g. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeane Kirkpatrick, John Bolton) who spoken up for the United States and defended our values and our allies. We’ve had rotten ones who were less than competent and/or craved consensus with tyrannical regimes (e.g. Bill Richardson, Andrew Young, Rice). The good ones were put there by presidents who had a grip on national security and the bad ones by those who slept through history (ignoring the rise of al-Qaeda) or who hadn’t a clue about how to wield American power. In short, U.N. ambassadors have been mirrors of, not beacons for the presidents they served.
What Rice and Power share — like Eric Holder, Chuck Hagel, Valerie Jarrett and Jack Lew — is an all-encompassing loyalty to defend the president, whatever it takes, and partisan fervor. These qualities in Obama’s second term team facilitate his hubris and shield him from disagreeable facts. We can hope that at the president’s arm Rice will be different, but let’s not hold our breath.
Indeed, two former Obama advisers confirm that this is all about giving the president continuity and increasing his comfort level (i.e. removing any conflict). The Wall Street Journal reports:
President Barack Obama further tightened his control of U.S. foreign policy Wednesday by tapping a pair of trusted advisers for key national-security roles. . . .
“It’s symbolic of what this administration has been doing with most appointments, which has been staying on track, providing continuity and not making waves,” Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director under Mr. Obama, said in an interview. “It certainly fits a pattern that we’re seeing—having people appointed who are close to the president and who are known quantities.”
Added Dennis Ross, who was part of the National Security Council staff in the first term: “I wouldn’t take these two appointments as being an indicator that somehow the policy is going to change. I don’t think that’s the case. What it reflects is the comfort level he has with the two of them.”
Unlike Rice, who will be within the White House cocoon, Power, if she is clever and determined enough to keep her reputation for seriousness on human rights, will have to pick her spots. But then again, far away at Turtle Bay with no operational control over any instrument of power, she’s no match for Rice (her formal rival) the Pentagon chief, the CIA director (another Obama loyalist!) and the new secretary of state (who fancies pleading with Russia to get “peace” in Syria, thinks the “peace process” can be restarted, wants a special relationship with China and considers Mahmoud Abbas’s new puppet as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority to be a swell choice).
In short, the history of Obama’s appointments has been of individuals who either didn’t assert themselves (and live up to their potential) or who were picked because they could be counted on not to. I’m not holding out hope for anything better, especially in an administration hunkering down under a cloud of scandals.