Susan Rice made a classy move by withdrawing her name from consideration as the next secretary of state. A few weeks ago, I wrote that Rice's possible nomination was a risky option for the president: Her appointment would have meant a distracting fight at the outset of his second-term. Rice's decision is a noble example of putting the president's interests ahead of one's own.

The controversy around Rice was filled with unfair and inaccurate innuendo, and she will now not get the chance to "clear" her name, but nor will she have to endure further attacks. The president's agreement with Rice's decision is also a sign of maturity, of subjugating his emotions to his broader political interests. It must not have been easy for the president to listen to some of the attacks on Rice — that she was too political, for instance, when, in fact, her closeness to the president might have been one of her greater strengths. Nor will it be fun to imagine the momentary triumphalism of her opponents on the Hill.  But the president swallowed and accepted it, and that is the sign of someone who is learning to pick his fights.