Why Did Obama Give Republicans a Scalp?

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Andrew Sprung comments on Susan Rice’s withdrawal from consideration as secretary of state:

When I saw the news, my own mind jumped to a conclusion simultaneous with processing it: shit, Obama caved. I consider that a significant data point, not because I’m particularly knowledgeable about this process or about Rice, but because I’m not. I think anyone who followed the course of this prospective nomination even casually would have leaped to the same conclusion. And those optics suggest a major White House failure, whatever the merits of Rice as Secretary of State.

Moreover, I think we do know enough to lament the way this affair was handled….[Rice’s] claim that a “long, grueling confirmation battle” would have distracted from struggles to enact key legislation reinforces the perception that Obama is unwilling to confront determined opposition. Her assertion, “The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized” highlights the fact that her enemies successfully politicized it.

Why was this appalling affair handled the way it was? As Andrew suggests later, why not just nominate John Kerry for secretary of state and say he was the top choice all along? And why let this process drag out so publicly for over a month?

I suppose the likeliest explanation is that, yes, it was just badly handled. But there’s another possibility: Obama (a) wanted to give Rice every possible chance, and (b) wanted to make it crystal clear that Republican intransigence had killed the nomination. The latter has a couple of benefits. First, it’s probably good PR for Team Obama. Second, it means that Senate Republicans have a scalp. The informal rules of Washington DC culture allow the opposition party to reject one or two nominees (John Tower, Zoë Baird, Tom Daschle) but then confirm the rest. By making Rice their scalp, it probably makes Obama’s future nomination fights easier.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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