That perceived need for someone with national-security experience is also why Jim Clyburn, the South Carolina congressman and majority whip in the House who made a powerful endorsement of the former vice president, included Rice on the list of suggestions he gave Biden, Clyburn told me.

“I just don’t know how the country will look in the next several months, but it would seem to me that we have a lot to do in this country, not to just restore the confidence in the American people, but we’ve got to restore confidence around the world,” Clyburn said. He told me he’d leave Biden to make a decision based on personal dynamics and polling, but “I don’t know that there’s another African American woman in the country, or any woman other than maybe Hillary Clinton, who has the stripes that she has on foreign policy.”…

Biden has a variety of personal and professional connections to some of the other women his campaign is looking at, a group that includes several governors as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren, who set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before running to represent Massachusetts, and Senator Kamala Harris, who ran a huge office as attorney general of California. But Rice is the only one of these possibilities whom he’s worked with every day, during the eight years they both spent in the Obama administration, and none of the others has Rice’s level of experience in the executive branch, or in crisis management. Biden believed that reconstituting the gutted federal government after Trump was going to be a massive undertaking even before the coronavirus became a pandemic. In her own memoir released last year, Obama’s second UN ambassador, Samantha Power, wrote, “Susan was said to have a ‘black belt’ in bureaucracy,” and recounted early advice from her: “Act like you are the boss, or people will take advantage of you.”