Slatest PM: Susan Rice's Loss Is John Kerry's Gain

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 13 2012 5:01 PM

Slatest PM: Susan Rice's Loss Is John Kerry's Gain

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Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) walks to the Senate chamber in the U.S. Capitol on December 4, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.

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Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Point, John McCain: Susan Rice announced today that she has taken her name off the short list to be the next secretary of state. The embattled diplomat went public with her decision in an interview with NBC News this afternoon after informing President Obama of her decision by letter. The move represents a surprising end to Rice's time as the apparent front-runner to replace Secretary Hillary Clinton as head of the State Department when the former first lady steps down from her post. McCain and his fellow Senate Republicans had steadfastly vowed to do all they could to block Rice's confirmation, but there had been little to suggest that Obama would allow the GOP threats to force his hand, and the president had repeatedly voiced his unwavering support for Rice.

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The Letter: "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 told Obama. "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."

White House 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 in a statement. "The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country."

GOP Reaction: "I respect Ambassador Rice’s decision. President Obama has many talented people to choose from to serve as our next Secretary of State," Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a statement, adding: "When it comes to Benghazi I am determined to find out what happened—before, during, and after the attack. Unfortunately, the White House and other agencies are stonewalling when it comes to providing the relevant information. I find this unacceptable."

The Real Winner: Sen. John Kerry. With Rice out of the picture, it would appear to greatly increase the chances that Kerry lands his dream job. The Massachusetts Democrat has long had his sights on leading the State Department. He's also been rumored to be in the running for Defense secretary, but former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel has emerged as the new front-runner for that post. If Obama does tap Kerry for a cabinet position, however, that would leave the door open for Republican Scott Brown to find his way back to the Senate by winning his second special election.

Happy Thursday, welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

More on Hagel and the DOD: Bloomberg: "Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has emerged as the leading candidate to become Obama’s next Secretary of Defense and may be nominated as soon as this month, according to two people familiar with the matter. Hagel, who served as an enlisted Army infantryman in Vietnam, has passed the vetting process at the White House Counsel’s office, said one of the people. The former Nebraska senator has told associates that he is awaiting final word from the president, said the other person. Both requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters."

Speaking of Panetta: Washington Post: "An American service member was killed and three were wounded Thursday afternoon when a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a heavily armored military vehicle just outside a base where U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta had been visiting troops earlier in the day. The attack outside Kandahar Air Field, a heavily-guarded base in Kandahar province, underscored the tenuous security in the country’s south, the Taliban’s heartland, as the U.S. military footprint continues to thin out. Two Afghan civilians were killed and several were wounded in the blast, local officials said."

Russia Comes to Grips With an Assad-Less Future: New York Times: "Russia’s top Middle East diplomat and the leader of NATO offered dark and strikingly similar assessments of the embattled Syrian president’s future on Thursday, asserting that he was losing control of the country after a nearly two-year conflict that has taken 40,000 lives and has threatened to destabilize the Middle East. The bleak appraisals—particularly from Russia, a steadfast strategic Syrian ally—amounted to a new level of pressure on the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who has been resorting to increasingly desperate military measures, including the use of Scud ballistic missiles, to contain an armed insurgency that has encroached on the capital, Damascus."

McAfee's Back in the United States: Associated Press: "Anti-virus software founder John McAfee said Thursday that U.S. authorities have made no efforts to question him since he arrived in Miami after weeks of evading Belizean authorities who want to ask him about the death of his neighbor. 'Why would they want to question me, about what?' a tired-looking but sharply dressed McAfee said Thursday from the steps of his South Beach hotel. ... McAfee was deported from Guatemala after sneaking in illegally from Belize, where police want to question him in connection with the death of a U.S. expatriate who lived near him on an island off Belize's coast. U.S officials said there was no active arrest warrant for McAfee that would justify taking him into custody."

TV Commercials Just Got a Whole Lot Quieter: Los Angeles Times: "No need to dive for the mute button today: A new federal law aimed at lowering the volume of TV commercials goes into effect. ... Under the rule, commercials should have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. The Federal Communications Commission, which has called loud TV commercials 'one of the most persistent problems of the television age,' said it will rely on consumer complaints to monitor industry compliance. ... Obama signed the measure nearly two years ago, but it took time for the FCC to draw up rules, and for industry groups to work through the technical issues and come into compliance."

Doomsday Predictions: New PRRI poll: "Only 2% of Americans believe that the end of the world, as predicted by the ancient Mayans, will happen by the end of this year. However, 15% of Americans believe that the end of the world, as predicted by the Book of Revelation, will occur in their lifetime."

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