UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has been touted as a top contender to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. If nominated, Rice may have a difficult path to confirmation after being caught in a battle between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans over the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya
Ambassador Rice has been a Washington insider practically since birth. She grew up in affluent Washington circles, the daughter of a governor of the Federal Reserve System. She distinguished herself academically at Stanford University in California and in her post-graduate work at Oxford University in England.
Her political star was rising, first during Bill Clinton’s administration as one of his special assistants, then as an assistant secretary of state for African Affairs.
She was an early supporter and advisor to then-candidate Barack Obama and became his United Nations ambassador in January 2009.
American University professor and author David Bosco says Rice has a strong resumé as well as a close relationship with President Obama.
"She understands how the U.S. foreign policy machine works, and I think that’s extremely valuable," Bosco said. "Her relationship with the president is also very valuable. That’s a real asset for a secretary of state, because when she interacts with foreign leaders, foreign diplomats, they know it is likely there is very little daylight between her and the president.”
At the United Nations, Rice has traded barbs with her Russian counterpart and is known to be a tough negotiator. Her diplomatic style has been described as ‘no-nonsense’ and ‘abrasive.’ But David Bosco believes her personality would not define her if she became the top American diplomat.
"The position carries such weight, that whether she is an engaging personality, or outgoing, gregarious, is something that I think isn’t going to be highly relevant for her success as secretary," Bosco said.
After the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Rice suddenly found herself at the center of a battle between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans.
Republican Senators, including South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, say they will oppose her nomination based in part on comments she made on several American news programs five days after the attack that killed four Americans.
“I don’t think she deserves to be promoted," Graham said. "There are a lot of qualified people in this country the president could pick, but I am dead set on making sure we don’t promote anybody that was an essential player in the Benghazi debacle.”
A meeting between the senators and Ambassador Rice did not appear to ease their doubts. But she still has the support of President Obama.
“Susan Rice is extraordinary. Couldn’t be prouder of the job she’s done,” the president said.