In a move that should surprise absolutely no one who’s been paying attention, President Obama has named Susan Rice to replace the outgoing Tom Donilon as national security adviser.
Not only was the move expected, but for Obama it makes perfect sense, although in conventional terms it would seem somewhat odd for a president to appoint someone with such a controversial and easily criticized past. But Obama cares little about the public’s opinion of his appointees; see how tenaciously he has clung to Holder so far through thick and thin.
It’s exactly the thing for which Rice has been criticized — her dutiful presentation of the administration’s deceptive but politically advantageous talking points about the death of the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in Benghazi — that makes Rice most attractive to Obama as a close aide. He can trust her, and he doesn’t trust too many people.
I called her presentation “dutiful,” but another word for it would be “loyal.” It’s a loyalty that lies not only in Rice’s having presented those deceptive “facts” in the first place, but in never having turned on the administration afterward for putting her in that position (perhaps originally without her knowledge of the deception), even though it ended up costing her the post of Secretary of State, which would have required congressional confirmation.
Rice stuck with Obama even after she was thrown under the bus, as it were. And now she has been rewarded with a job that arguably could be as important in terms of influence if not prestige, because it is likely that Obama listens to his national security adviser at least as much, if not more, as he does to his secretary of State. To Obama, loyalty is almost everything, and Rice has the added bonus of actually having more of a background in foreign affairs than her predecessor.
The Rice appointment also frees up the job of UN ambassador, which gives Obama the opportunity to name another controversial woman and Obama loyalist to that position, Samantha Power. Power has a long record of supporting his foreign policy, is a fellow graduate of Harvard Law School, and is married to well-known leftist law professor Cass Sunstein. In an interesting twist, Power (like another close Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett) was born outside the U.S. — in Power’s case, in Ireland to non-citizen parents who emigrated to the U.S. when Power was nine (Jarrett‘s parents were expat Americans in Iran during her early childhood).