President Barack Obama meets with former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice in New York, N.Y., March 29, 2011. (Pete Souza/THE WHITE HOUSE)

The decision by United Nations ambassador Susan Rice to withdraw her name from consideration as President Obama’s next Secretary of State sent shockwaves through Washington Thursday evening.

Rice, as anyone watching the political battle over her potential nomination knows by now, had come under fire from Senate Republicans for comments she made earlier this fall on Sunday morning talk shows about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte seized on the issue and promised a difficult confirmation for Rice to the job of chief diplomat. In the aftermath, Rice chose to withdraw her name, saying in a letter to the president that “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.”

For now, it appears, Rice will remain in her job as the ambassador to the United Nations. She wrote in an op-ed in the Post that she has “a great job” and that she will “continue the work of the American people at the United Nations.” Though her name has been floated for the position of national security adviser, administration officials have said in reports that Thomas E. Donilon is expected to stay in that job. The president said in a statement, “I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come.”

As he should. As disappointing as it may be for Obama and many of Rice’s supporters not to see her nominated to Secretary of State, the president had a chance to learn a lot that could fuel his thinking for future posts. It is not every day that a leader gets such a stark reading of one of his key deputies’ priorities: country over career. Not to mention her loyalty.

President Obama may be angry over how the situation played out. Women within the administration—and for all I know, Rice herself—could be quietly seething that she didn’t have the opportunity to reach her field’s highest post. (ComPost imagines the message behind Rice’s diplomatic letter in a hilarious send-up.) There may be few consolation prizes in political careers, and the job of Secretary of State is unlikely to come up again. But I’d guess that what the president has learned about Susan Rice in the last few days means this is hardly the end of the road for her career.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.

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