Joe Biden didn’t provide much information on how to choose a vice president. As POLITICO’s Marc Caputo puts it, “There are really only six or seven people in the United States who know what the hell is going on.”
You describe Rice as a very capable government actor, the guy who can hold the reins of foreign policy as President Biden tackles the consuming internal crises of a pandemic and crater-riddled economy. Having a Republican son speaks for their open-mindedness, these supporters say, further arguing that Benghazi is a stale issue that is unlikely to raise voices.
Perhaps most importantly? Rice has had a long – and apparently warm – relationship with Biden.
“He’s seen her not only in good times, but on really tough and challenging occasions,” said Valerie Jarrett, who served as senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Jarrett insisted that she was not advocating any particular candidate over others, but said of Rice, “Her experience has a level and depth that would be a real asset.”
The Biden campaign will not comment on its potential running mates. But after it became known that Rice would be reviewed, excitement over the possibility has grown and has spawned columns with titles like “The Case for Susan Rice”.
The chatter is loud enough that allies of others contemplated for the vice presidency are increasingly concerned about Rice, particularly because of her close ties with Biden, who as Obama’s number 2 had an office steps away from hers.
Privately, some in the California world of Senator Kamala Harris have suggested that Rice Harris’ strongest rival for the seat of Vice President may be. Harris is widely considered to be the best-chance candidate for Biden’s runner-up – she made the press when she ran up against him in the primary and has a decent name. Like Rice, she would represent the first black woman on a major party presidential ticket.
Nobody is ruling it out, but there is less speculation that Rice would run for the Oval Office, as Harris almost certainly would after Biden. That could give Rice an edge on the veepstakes, especially if Biden – who has hinted he might serve a term – doesn’t want to deal with the distraction of a government partner who is keeping an eye on his job.
Still, Rice would be an unorthodox choice. It’s not entirely certain who first suggested her as a potential Vice President, although Jim Clyburn, the powerful Congressman whose support helped provide South Carolina for Biden, praised Rice and noted in a brief interview that he was one of them has advertised multiple options. Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, a co-chair of the Biden Campaign, confirmed that Rice is under review and said her consideration as a possible running mate was “absolutely serious.”
Rice, too, has drawn special attention in recent months for publishing her memoir – the last few pages of which sound more like a political call to action than an inside report on Obama’s foreign policy. She has kept her name on the news with regular TV hits and columns in the New York Times, and sometimes covers topics beyond national security, including racial relations.
People close to Rice say that she did not introduce herself but would be proud to serve if asked to. “One of the things she’s most passionate about is public service,” said Gayle Smith, a longtime friend and colleague of Rice’s who headed the US agency for international development under Obama.
Several of the people who spoke to POLITICO worked directly with Rice during their tenure in the Obama administration, serving as US Ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor.
Some admitted that they had serious political differences with her, particularly over Africa, but said they respect her overall. Most spoke of her in ardent terms, even those who were first stunned by her strict standards and lavish use of swear words.
“At first I thought, ‘Who is this crazy person?’ But in the end, I just developed one of the deepest feelings of respect I had for everyone in the government, ”said a former National Security Council official. “She got things done. She is one of the most effective bureaucratic actors I have ever seen in government. ”
Rice, 55, was the kind of boss who valued diverse opinions and constantly challenged her employees to pressure their arguments, former colleagues said. But they also praised her for subordinating herself to her staff who knew about the topic in meetings. She is also extremely loyal and protective to the people who work for her, they said.
Meridith Webster described how she stayed in 2009 after learning that her mother had lung cancer in her 4. Then one day, Rice walked into Webster’s office, closed the door, and told her to see her mother.
“She said, ‘Take as much time as you want. When you come back your job will be here. If you don’t go now, you will regret it for the rest of your life, ”recalls Webster, who was on leave. “If she hadn’t told me, I probably wouldn’t have known. It allowed me to end up with my mother. It ended up getting me a degree. I don’t regret this terrible time because of Susan. ”
In her book “Tough Love,” Rice rarely mentions Biden, but when she describes him, it is with kind words. She mentions how then-Sen. Biden spoke out in favor of her in the 1990s when the Senate considered and eventually confirmed her for the role of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
“My favorite unannounced visitor was Joe Biden, whose office was just down the hall,” Rice wrote of her later years at the White House. “He came to see how we were doing, to cheer us up, to tell a joke, to blow the breeze or to deliver a bidenism – a family aphorism that has never lost its value.”
“On rare occasions,” she added, “the Vice President surprised me by baring his soul and sharing his torments over his son Beau’s cancer and later his tragic death. Even when in pain, Joe Biden was warm and generous that always made me feel better than when he walked in.
Rice regularly briefed Biden and Obama on national security issues. “Biden obviously had his own national security staff, but she spent as much time with him as almost anyone outside of his staff,” said a second former NSC official.
Biden and Rice did not always agree on politics. When the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions rocked the Middle East, Biden urged Obama not to abandon the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, a man he had known for a long time. Rice has sided with the demonstrators who wanted to make Mubarak disappear. Your side won this argument.
Rice, then Obama’s UN ambassador, spoke out in favor of a US intervention in Libya to prevent dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi from wiping out the residents of the city of Benghazi, a rebel stronghold. Rice, who was an NSC worker in the Rwandan genocide, was determined to prevent another mass atrocity. However, Biden and others argued against intervention, saying the US did not have overriding national security interests in Libya.
The eventual US-led intervention may have prevented mass murders in Benghazi. But it quickly evolved into a broader battle against Gaddafi, who was eventually overthrown and killed. Libya today is a broken, violent country of rival militias with multiple foreign powers fueling the conflict.