Breaking: Susan Rice withdraws from consideration as Secretary of State

Did she fall on her own sword or did the White House hand her one?

“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama, saying she’s saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her prospects.

“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time,” she wrote in the letter obtained by NBC News…

In her letter to Obama, Rice took aim at her GOP critics.

“The position of secretary of state should never be politicized,” she wrote, adding, “I’m saddened that we have reached this point, even before you have decided whom to nominate. We cannot afford such an irresponsible distraction from the most pressing issues facing the American people.”

NBC will have an interview with her tonight at 10 p.m. ET. Needless to say, this makes Kerry the prohibitive favorite at State; when Scott Brown told the Senate yesterday that he and they may “meet again,” he wasn’t kidding. How’s next year sound?

Updates are coming. Stand by.

Update: Obama’s reaction:

While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first,” Obama said. “The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”

She’ll stay on as ambassador to the UN.

Update: Thought of the day:

Update: I don’t think it was Republican opposition to her over Benghazi that forced her out. Obama signaled repeatedly that he was prepared to stand by her on that; lefty media churned out plenty of “I don’t get what the big deal is!!!” pieces in her defense over the last month too. Liberals would have lined up behind her on Libya with plenty of demagoguery about racism and sexism to help push her through. I think it was the other stuff that convinced her or the White House or both that this wasn’t worth the headaches — the endless whispering about her undiplomatic temperament, the conflict-of-interest concerns about her investments in companies behind the Keystone pipeline, and the criticism of her alleged “sympathy” for some of Africa’s tyrants. If her confirmation had been a pure referendum on Benghazi, Senate Democrats probably would have gone to bat for her. But if it’s not a pure referendum, if it’s Benghazi plus three or four other weak spots, then maybe a handful would defect and suddenly O’s looking at a major humiliation to start his second term.

Update: The MSNBC spin is already set. Mitchell nods at it in passing, but the rest of the line-up will spend the rest of the day breathing heavily about it. Click the image to watch.

Update: So this explains the timing of the Hagel news this afternoon. Kerry had been touted as a possibility at State or Defense; once the White House knew (or decided) that Rice was out of contention, Kerry became the obvious pick at State and Hagel could then be put forth for the Pentagon.

I wonder if this now means Hagel’s confirmation hearing will be more contentious than thought. I figured Obama and the GOP would each be willing to spend political capital on one major clash over a cabinet nominee next year. Rice’s nomination would have been it; instead, Kerry will now sail through. Which means, if there’s to be a fight, it may be a fight over Hagel. Per James Antle, Obama might like that just fine.

Update: Jim Geraghty reminds us that the next Secretary of State is simply terrible on foreign policy.

Update: Sure is:

You can knock Rice for not being more skeptical and inquisitive when the White House was feeding her those ill-fated CIA talking points for her Sunday show appearances on Benghazi, but her big sin here is essentially being too much of a stooge for the White House — a far, far lesser sin than those committed by Hillary and the crack State diplomatic security team in leaving Chris Stevens unprotected. Rice was being an awfully good soldier to serve as that stooge back then and she’s being an awfully good soldier in helping Obama out of a jam by “withdrawing” now. I wonder how he’ll reward her. Michael Tomasky thinks she’ll probably end up as National Security Advisor, a post that doesn’t require Senate approval. Likely right.

Update: BuzzFeed accuses Obama of “weakness”:

“Susan Rice is essentially a repeat of Gitmo in 2009,” a former Obama Administration official emailed moments after Susan Rice withdrew her name for Secretary of State Thursday afternoon. “You have to give up on her because the politics are so bad that the White House thinks it can’t win. But the politics are so bad because they spent too long not fighting for it and instead just watching things get worse. Self-fulfilling.”

How did they not fight for her? Obama rose to Rice’s defense and explicitly challenged McCain and Graham at a press conference over their criticism of her. Democratic members of Congress held a separate presser to accuse Republicans of racism and sexism in criticizing her. As noted above, the left surely would have lined up for her if she was nominated, although whether that would have been enough to hold the line in the Senate is questionable. Obama didn’t show weakness in having her withdraw, he showed contempt for her back in September by making her the designated stooge for a dubious narrative about the attack that she had nothing whatsoever to do with. She might very well have been confirmed if not for her Benghazi TV appearances, and now her life’s ambition has been thwarted in part because O pushed her into the line of political fire needlessly. If you’re a liberal and want to be angry about something, be angry about that.

Update: Surprise: