WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) named Susan Rice as his new national security advisor, defying Republican fury over her role in the Benghazi affair and calling her an “exemplary public servant.”
Rice, 48, currently US ambassador to the United Nations, will take over from Tom Donilon in July. Obama nominated Irish-born genocide expert and Pulitzer prize-winning author Samantha Power, 42, as the next envoy to the world body.
The shake-up in Obama’s national security team marks a swift rebound for Rice, who was forced to pull out of the running to be secretary of state, after being caught up in a row over the attack on the US mission in Benghazi.
Republicans accused her of misleading Americans over the true nature of the attack in Libya, which killed four Americans, after she said on television it was a spontaneous assault rather than a planned terrorist operation.
Obama vigorously defended her at the time, and it was an open secret in Washington that he would select Rice when Donilon, who has been in the job for three years, decided to retire this year.
The president Wednesday lauded Rice as an “exemplary public servant” who is “passionate and pragmatic” and a champion for justice and human dignity.
“Put simply, Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership,” Obama said in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
Obama’s staff shuffle again puts two women in the trio of top foreign policy jobs, alongside Secretary of State John Kerry, and confirms Obama’s penchant from promoting within his tight political inner circle.
It also elevates two people who have wrestled with the question of when the United States should intervene in foreign conflicts to protect civilians, just as Obama faces pressure to get more involved in the Syria crisis.
Rice was part of the Clinton administration team that failed to respond to halt genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.