November 30 2012
U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is under fire because of peddling a false narrative of what happened in Benghazi to the public, is the subject of two pieces in today’s Washington Post.
Neither piece deals with the matter of how Rice came to tell these stories to the American people. One of the articles is a an out and out puff piece, while the other purports to examine the pressing question of whether criticism of Ms. Rice is sexist.
“All Eyes on Susan Rice Now that She’s Presumptive Front-runner to become Secretary of State,” is the online headline for the puff piece, a profile by Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia. Nowhere does he suggest that eyes might be on her because of her Benghazi performance. The story begins with a little prankie-pooh our fun-loving ambassador played on her Russian counterpart at the United nations, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. This raises a question for Roig-Franzia:
Was she being undiplomatically inappropriate or unconventionally charming?
How about this question: Did Ambassador Rice knowingly mislead us on Benghazi or was she duped?
To the extent that Roig-Franzia deals with Benghazi at all, he notes that Ms. Rice was “pinch-hitting” for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she went on TV with her porkie pies. He seems incurious as to why she was asked to do this. Did those with knowledge of what happened that night (such as Mrs. Clinton) feel it would be prudent not to be asked direct questions? Did Rice's ambition make her amenable to doing the White House bidding, even if the talking points weren't quite true?
Roig-Franzia's trivializes the criticism of Rice:
Senators crowd before microphones to condemn [Rice]. President Obama talks tough, saying her critics should come after him — not her. At times, the whirling drama takes on elements of a theater of the absurd. Read the cable news chyron! “Sticky Rice.” Read the reporters trade quippy headlines on Twitter! “McCain throws Rice in the cooker.” “Rice on Ice.” “Obama wants Benghazi, Rice on Back Burner.”
The piece focuses primarily on Rice’s growing up in D.C., where she attended Beauvoir and National Cathedral. She is “smiling” and “gregarious” when she and her husband Ian Cameron entertain at home, but she can be “blunt,” "lectures" people, and once shot the late Ambassador Richard Holbrook the bird, something Dean Acheson, James Baker, and Henry Kissinger are not known to have done.
Since Benghazi is neglected, I was surprised that the reporter bothered to mention Rice’s also questionable human rights record. But even here he manages to praise with very faint damns. Roig-Franzia has done a biography and several Post hatchet jobs on Senator Marco Rubio.
The second piece is a column by Ruth Marcus headlined “Susan Rice and Double Standards,” which begins this way:
Does gender — or the supercharged combination of gender and race — play a role in the preemptive strikes on not-yet-secretary of state nominee Susan Rice?
Marcus never seriously considers the notion that the criticism might just be the result of Rice’s abysmal performance. Marcus, however, realizes that it is hard to make the sexism/ racism case, given that a woman has served as secretary of state “for all but four of the last 16 years” and that a black man was the “during the interregnum.”
Pathetically, she resorts to this:
But to note the progress women have made is not to say that the problem of sexism has been erased. It persists in the shadows of consciousness. Its manifestations are more subtle than the over-my-dead-bodyism of Rivlin’s experience.
Public life is not about what goes on in “the shadows of consciousness.” It is about the actions one takes. Rice went on five TV shows and told untruths about something very important.
But President Obama knew that the sexism ruse would play, and it has played all too well in some quarters.