By naming U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as national security adviser, President Barack Obama turned the tables on Senate critics who opposed her nomination as secretary of state following her explanation of the Benghazi terror attack last year.
"I'm absolutely thrilled she'll be back at my side, leading my national security team for my second term," Obama said Wednesday as Rice stood next to him in the White House Rose Garden. Obama hailed Rice as "fearless, tough," and "a patriot."
"At my side" speaks volumes about the new position Rice will assume. In the White House, the office of national security adviser is just down the hall from the Oval Office occupied by the president.
In addition, the position requires no Senate confirmation and thus Rice — and the president — are spared from the certain rancor they would face from Republican senators were she named to any office requiring confirmation.
Since the administration of John F. Kennedy, the position of national security adviser has grown in influence, and sometimes its holder has overshadowed the traditional overseer of foreign policy, the secretary of state.
The obvious case in point is that of Henry Kissinger, who certainly overshadowed Secretary of State William P. Rogers while serving as Richard Nixon's national security adviser.
Referring to the secretaries of state under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, the late foreign correspondent Henry Brandon of the London Sunday Times once wrote: "A Dean Acheson or a John Foster Dulles would not have tolerated a Kissinger in the White House. Kennedy and Nixon, in contrast, chose to be directly in command of foreign policy."
That Rice would have the influence of a Kissinger is what bothers some Republicans on Capitol Hill.
"I'm not a huge fan of our present secretary of state," freshman Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Newsmax shortly after Rice's appointment was announced.
"But is there a possibility of Susan Rice overshadowing John Kerry in terms of formulating policy? Absolutely," said DeSantis. "We have a president who has consolidated power in the White House. Look at the way he has expanded the use of 'czars' [White House staffers who oversee policy] and thus gets to avoid congressional hearings because they are not required to testify."
What particularly bothers DeSantis about Rice having the president’s ear on foreign policy, he said, "is her attitude toward power and the willingness to use force in an area where it is shown that America doesn’t have a national interest."
Citing the administration's desire to assist the Syrian rebels, DeSantis said, Rice and others in the Obama inner circle "appear to be saying, ‘We have to be sure this is not in the national interest’ for the U.S. to become involved."
As to whether Rice as national security adviser will overshadow Secretary of State Kerry in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy, veteran political scientist Stephen Hess believes that is a possibility, but not a certainty.
"Sometimes this is the case and sometimes this isn't," said Hess, who first worked on President Eisenhower's staff and is now at the Washington-based Brookings Institute.
"Certainly Henry Kissinger was more prominent than William Rogers, but this relationship does not automatically come with the job of national security adviser. We've had some pretty powerful secretaries of state. I certainly don't think you could say Hillary Clinton was overshadowed" by Obama's two national security advisers, Gen. Jim Jones and Tom Donilon, who will leave the job in early July, said Hess.
Hess noted that Kerry "has been traveling a lot, and this may determine how they 'divide up the chores.'"
Hess told Newsmax that it's hard to say which way the relationship between Rice and Kerry will go.
"It depends on which has the most closeness to the president and does this translate into influence. Given [Rice’s] history with the president, John Kerry certainly is right to be a little cautious."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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