Our Susan Rice Gossip Deficit

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 13 2012 10:31 AM

Our Susan Rice Gossip Deficit

The headline is promising: "Susan Rice's Personality 'Disorder.'" What has gossip maven Lloyd Grove been able to dig up about Susan Rice?

Answer: Basically nothing. It takes him five grafs to say that Rice "is frequently described in the press with such adjectives as 'brusque,' 'aggressive,' and 'undiplomatic in the extreme.'" There are no links or citations for these "frequent" descriptions. Five grafs later, after some examples of other nominees struggling with adjective problems, we learn that "the zeitgeist hardly seems favorable" to her, because the New York Times published an unflattering story about her work on Africa.

Finally, on page two, comes the juice.

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“It’s the hallway conversation,” says a longtime State Department staffer. “It’s like, Jesus Christ, woe unto us all if this happens!”
Indeed, Rice has apparently left a trail of bruised egos and injured feelings in the nation’s capital. A veteran of the Clinton White House recalls a junior aide being summoned by Rice, then director of Africa policy at the National Security Council, and returning to his desk in tears.  “Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults,” writes Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. According to Milbank, when she was an assistant secretary of state Rice once gave the finger to her colleague Richard Holbrooke during a fractious high-level meeting, appalling those in attendance. A recent report in National Journal quoted an anonymous Democratic “foreign policy expert” as calling Rice “quite smart but temperamentally unfit for the job [of secretary of state] … Her voice is always right on the edge of a screech.” That demeaning blind quote has since been excised from the online version of the article.

You mean to tell me that in one full month of Rice speculation, the freshest specific anecdote about Rice's temper is the one Dana Milbank wrote about at the start of the month? This is the lamest round of Washington chatter I've ever seen. Rice has spent a combined eight years in high level administration jobs, and the last good gossip about her temper comes from the Lilith Fair era.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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