President Obama on Wednesday named United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser, picking a fight with congressional Republicans who blocked her bid to lead the State Department and insist she misled the public about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Obama announced Rice’s promotion in a Rose Garden ceremony, praising outgoing National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and announcing human-rights activist Samantha Power as his nominee to replace Rice.
“Susan is the consummate public servant — a patriot who puts her country first,” Obama said of Rice’s appointment to the senior West Wing position, which does not require Senate confirmation.
Rice was the leading contender to replace former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but withdrew from consideration amid GOP backlash to her characterization of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Rice claimed the strike on the U.S. consulate was caused by a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video — an assertion that was swiftly debunked — rather than an orchestrated terrorist attack.
“I’m deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me,” Rice told Obama, with supporters looking on from the Rose Garden.
Rice’s new assignment is viewed as a consolation prize after being denied the nation’s top diplomatic post. And though Obama will avoid another confirmation battle over Rice, this latest appointment gives Republicans a fresh opportunity to focus on the administration’s handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack.
“Judgment is key to national security matters,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said. “That alone should disqualify Susan Rice from her appointment.”
Rice has long been considered the frontrunner to follow Donilon, considering her ties to the president and Obama’s eagerness to stand up for his close confidant.
Power, Rice's replacement at the U.N., was senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights on the National Security Council during Obama’s first term.