There are lots and lots of ways to go after Susan Rice, actually, but this would be the most fun politically just because of the hyperventilating it would induce in the left’s Lords of Tolerance. All Republican criticism of Rice is necessarily sexist and racist, therefore a more personal criticism of her “temperament” must be really sexist and racist even though the left has spent years mainstreaming “temperament” attacks on Republicans. None other than Joe Biden used a “temperament” attack to try to torpedo John Bolton’s nomination as UN ambassador, and Harry Reid took the lead in 2008 in suggesting that McCain was some sort of loose cannon who might push the button in a fit of rage as president. Other Democrats at the time insinuated obliquely that McCain’s age might impair his judgment — including one Democrat whose name you might know:
Poll after poll shows that more voters trust Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on matters of national security than they do Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. Hoping to bridge that chasm, the Obama campaign and Democrats harped on comments McCain made on the Today show this morning, repeatedly calling the 71-year-old presumptive GOP presidential nominee “confused,” seeming to feed into concerns voters might have about the Arizonan’s age…
[Susan] Rice said McCain’s comments reveal a “real confusion and lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq” and the larger region. Jumping on gaffes McCain made in the past, Rice said McCain’s “repeatedly…confused Sunni and Shi’a,” and said he’s been “confused about who the leader in Iran with maximum power is.”
So evergreen is the “temperament” attack that Obama threw it at Romney after his initial statement on the Benghazi attacks, even though Romney had already long since been caricatured by then for being too robotically even-keeled and self-disciplined. So a temperament attack on Rice would be nothing novel — and if you believe certain none-too-conservative reporters, it would in fact be warranted. Remember this bit from Dana Milbank a few weeks ago?
Even in a town that rewards sharp elbows and brusque personalities, Rice has managed to make an impressive array of enemies — on Capitol Hill, in Foggy Bottom and abroad. Particularly in comparison with the other person often mentioned for the job, Sen. John Kerry, she can be a most undiplomatic diplomat, and there likely aren’t enough Republican or Democratic votes in the Senate to confirm her.
Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.
Some have wondered if Rice, who has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation, is diplomatic enough for the top diplomatic job…
Writing in a 2002 book about President Clinton’s failure to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, Samantha Power, now a National Security Council official, suggested that Rice was swayed by domestic politics when, as a rising star at the N.S.C. who would soon become Clinton’s director for African affairs, she mused about the ’94 midterms, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?”
I’m skeptical of all “temperament” attacks on politicians, Rice included; they’re too vague and easy, and they often seem to boil down to “X occasionally gets angry and says bad words.” But I’m intrigued that even people like Dowd and Milbank feel coolly enough about her to complicate the left’s narrative by running “unhelpful” columns, and if there’s any area of policy where temperament really should be vetted, it’s diplomacy. Is she abrasive with other diplomats at the UN, to the point that it’s actually impairing America’s ability to forge compromises? I doubt it, but if it was a fair question to raise with Bolton (and McCain and Romney and eventually Rubio and Jindal and Christie), then it’s fair for her. When Scarborough says he hears from people in Washington that they’re talking about this, I think he’s telling the truth.
The defense, of course, will be that Republicans only attack the minority appointees in O’s administration, which will come as news to Tim Geithner and Elena Kagan and Anita Dunn and Robert Gibbs and Jay Carney among many others. But just to be on the safe side, so that there’s no confusion, the next time Eric Holder and his deputies at the DOJ want to run guns to drug cartels, we should probably give them a pass. Meanwhile, in the spirit of equal time, read this unfortunately persuasive Politico take on why McCain’s going after Rice relentlessly while remaining oddly quiet about her boss, Hillary Clinton. Rice is being treated unfairly here by Maverick, but it’s not because of racism. It’s because of cronyism. He wants to attack the White House’s handling of Benghazi but, for reasons of friendship, he can’t bring himself to focus on the person who was ultimately responsible for Chris Stevens’s disgracefully poor security. Enter Susan Rice.