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Biden VP choice: Susan Rice, the diplomat and the lightning rod

Susan Rice, shown speaking in 2017, says her experience of the White House gives her the right background for a Vice President

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Susan Rice, who appeared in 201

7, says her experience with the White House gives her the right background for a Vice President

A former Obama White House official, Susan Rice, is one of the main challengers to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Even if she is not elected vice president, she is likely to be a key player if he wins. So who is she?

Susan Rice, who spoke at a cocktail party in the White House just before Donald Trump moved in, looked violent. “You will miss us,” she tells a journalist.

Today, Rice, the 55-year-old former national security adviser, is hoping for power. She is on the short list of candidates to become the Democratic Vice Presidential election. If she is not elected Vice President and Mr Biden wins the election, she may become Secretary of State.

Rice’s name floats when Biden is under increasing pressure to choose not only a woman – as he has committed to do – but a black woman as a running friend.

Senator Kamala Harris is often cited as an option, as are Congresswomen Karen Bass and Val Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Georgia’s Senate candidate Stacey Abrams.

Rice’s biography makes her seem like a natural choice for a top spot. But she has never driven to the office, and some analysts question whether she is the best candidate for the ticket. They say she does not have the political chops needed to win a close election. They also wonder about the luggage she would take with her to the White House race.

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Susan Rice, shown with Joe Biden and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010, worked with Mr Biden in the White House

When she worked for Obama, Rice became a lightning rod for controversy.

After US outposts in Benghazi, Libya, were attacked in September 2012, Rice spoke of melee on television, describing the attacks as “spontaneous violence” rather than as attacks organized by militant groups.

Ambassador J Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens were killed in those attacks.

Republicans lashed out at her, criticizing her television comments, saying she had misled the public about the nature of the abuse.

Rice said she had provided the public with the information available to her and other White House officials at the time.

Almost a decade later, the controversy still spits her out. It can be a responsibility for the Democrats during the campaign.

A goal for conservatives

Michael S. Smith II, a terrorist analyst who is a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, says that conservatives would remind people of Rice’s comments about Benghazi. These conservatives, he says, would use her comments to show that, in their view, Democrats are dishonest about the threat posed by terrorist groups and that progressives are weak for national security.

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Says Mr Smith: “She was the poster child of conservatives who said Obama was lying to the public about threats posed by al-Qaeda” and other groups that have carried out attacks.

Still, many Democrats believe she is the right person for vice president and that she would add luster to the ticket. She worked with Biden and other White House officials on the Iran 2015 nuclear deal, and she helped with US efforts for the Paris climate deal.

Under Trump’s leadership, the United States has withdrawn from international agreements.

David Litt, a former spokesman for the Obama White House and author of Democracy in One Book or Less, says the United States lost its position on the global stage because of the Trump presidency.

“I can remember when our allies were outraged by America, but I can not remember a time when allies liked America,” Mr Litt said.

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Pete Souza


Susan Rice, pictured far right with President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others

Mr Litt believes Rice would be an excellent choice as vice president because of her experience in the global arena: she could re-establish strong relations with allies in the United States, he says, and would help “restore America’s place in the world.”

Among the dozens of leading candidates to become Mr. Biden’s running buddy, Rice has the strongest background in international affairs. At the age of 32, she became Deputy Secretary of State and later served as an ambassador to the UN.

Since leaving the White House, she has written a memoir, Tough Love, a story about her childhood in Washington and her life with her husband, Ian Cameron, a Canadian-born television producer, and two children. She also describes her family history: Her great-great-grandfather was born a slave, and part of her family was originally from Jamaica.

In her memoir, she said she had little interest in election politics for herself, explaining that she “did not have the patience or obsequiousness to run for office and was not interested in compromising my principles”.

“Extraordinary poise”

Recently, however, she has come up with the idea. During an interview on CBS This Morning, she said she would bring decades of experience in the executive branch to vice president. She helped fight Ebola and other pandemics during her time in the White House, she explained, saying she knows what diseases can do to individuals and society.

Describing the economic impact of the current pandemic, “I deeply understand the economic consequences for Americans who are suffering,” she said, adding that she understands how “suffering has disproportionately affected color communities.”

She said that her lack of experience as a candidate is more important today because the campaign is carried out “at a distance”.

Still, there is a high order: driving to the office is more personal – and in some ways more difficult – than earning in the office, say those who have done both.

Tom Malinowski, a former deputy secretary of state for human rights, made the transition to street-level politics himself. He is now a Democratic congressman from New Jersey. He met Rice when they were both Rhodes researchers at Oxford and says she has what it takes to win: “She has extraordinary poise and confidence and intelligence that strikes in a genuine way.”

Mr Biden is expected to make his announcement on a Vice Presidential candidate in the coming days. Rice has the courage of his convictions. But the question remains: will she convince others that she is the right person for the ticket?

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