UNITED NATIONS – Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who lost out in a bruising bid for the job of secretary of state, may end up having the last laugh.
Rice has emerged as far and away the front-runner to succeed Tom Donilon as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser later this year, according to an administration official familiar with the president’s thinking. The job would place her at the nexus of foreign policy decision-making and allow her to rival the influence of Secretary of State John Kerry in shaping the administration’s foreign policy.
The appointment would mark a dramatic twist of fortune for Rice, whose prospects of becoming the country’s top diplomat fizzled last year following a round of television appearances in which she provided what turned out to be a flawed account of a Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
That episode ignited a firestorm of criticism from Senate Republicans, who questioned her honesty and vowed to oppose her nomination, and also exposed misgivings from more liberal detractors who questioned whether her temperament, her family’s investments and her relations with African strongmen made her unfit to lead the State Department.
In plotting her political rehabilitation, Rice has kept whatever disappointment she may have felt in check. At the same time, her staff has sought to erect a more protective shield around her, moving to restrict access by midlevel foreign delegates suspected of leaking details about her more controversial positions and sometimes undiplomatic remarks in confidential deliberations at the United Nations.
Rice’s standing within the Obama administration remains secure, according to White House officials and Democratic lawmakers. Her U.N. colleagues are betting she will ultimately serve as Obama’s national security adviser, probably some time after the United States assumes the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council in July.