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Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Susan Rice can expect intense Senate grilling at her confirmation hearings if
President Obama nominates her to replace Hillary Clinton at the State Department.
From National Review to anonymous Republican aides, the possibility that Sen. John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice may be nominated to fill two of the top three Cabinet posts for President Obama's second term is being met with predictions of a battle royale in Senate confirmation hearings. The nominations, Rice as secretary of state and Kerry as Defense, are not certain. White House press secretary John Carney declined to "speculate" about the rumors at a media briefing Tuesday.

Only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she will be leaving. Kerry, who is said to really really want Clinton's job, apparently was surprised that he might be offered the Pentagon post instead. Scuttlebutt has it that Obama really really wants Rice at State.

Whether President Obama nominates either or both of them, however, it's being made obvious that they won't get off with an easy round or two of questions in the Senate. Dave Weigel reports:

[Wednesday] morning, in a Fox News interview, [Sen. John McCain] pledged to filibuster Rice. Hours later he called a press conference with Sen. Lindsey Graham (who has also promised to filibuster) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (who has become the new Joe Lieberman of the McCain-led three amigos.) McCain pledged to "do whatever to block the nomination that is within our power." On the way out, I heard reporters confidentally talking about how the president had to "pull" Rice—who has not been nominated—because of the opposition.

But to filibuster Rice, Republicans would need 40 votes. Neither McCain or Graham said they had those votes; Graham just speculated that "a few" Democrats might buck the president on his own Secretary of State nomination and join a filibuster. Few other members of the GOP conference have promised this level of opposition.

Kerry would no doubt be challenged by senators who still buy the lying smears of the Swiftboaters who went to great lengths to sink his presidential campaign in 2004. And while he has alienated some on the Left with his rightward moves since 1971—when he testified in uniform against the Vietnam War at the Senate's sometimes fiery Fulbright Hearings—he is still anathema to conservatives, including some military veterans.

But, so far, given that the possibility of a Kerry nomination seems a surprise even to Kerry, all the right-wing heat has been on Rice. The focus has been on her statements in the wake of the slayings of four Americans in Benghazi. Republicans sought unsuccessfully to make the attack and the Obama administration's public response to it into a campaign issue that boiled down pretty much to Barack-Obama-is-soft-on-terrorists-and-Rice-told-lies-as-part-of-a-coverup. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had this to say on CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday:

"I'm not entertaining, promoting anybody that I think was involved with the Benghazi debacle. We need to get to the bottom of it. The president has a lot of leeway with me and others when it comes to making appointments, but I'm not going to promote somebody who I think has misled the country or is either incompetent. That's my view of Susan Rice."
The administration and its supporters have said Rice had very little to do with anything related to Benghazi other than publicly saying what U.S. intelligence was saying in the immediate aftermath of the attack. But State Department officials themselves have questioned why Rice said that the attack sprang spontaneously from a protest about a crude anti-Muslim film that had sparked demonstrations in Arab and other Muslim nations. Except she never said that the attack arose spontaneously. She said the attackers used a protest at the U.S. consulate as cover. As Weigel says, one of those making the phony claim about what Rice said is none other than ... John McCain.

What kind of secretary of state would she make?

Stephen Lacey, who writes for the Climate section of Think Progress, wonders if Rice might be a vigorous advocate in international negotiations around climate change, which, thus far, have failed to produce an enforceable pact which reduces that carbon emissions that are raising atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, and contributing to a huge increase in extreme weather events:

Rice is known as a tough talker who brings a “pugnacious” style to diplomacy. And her only major speech on climate change as UN Ambassador illustrates how she might bring that upfront style to the issue. In July of last year, Rice chastised China and Russia for blocking the UN security council from adopting language linking the threat of climate change to international security. She called it “pathetic.”
“We have dozens of countries in this body and in this very room whose very existence is threatened. They’ve asked this Council to demonstrate our understanding that their security is profoundly threatened. Instead, because of the refusal of a few to accept our responsibility, this Council is saying, by its silence, in effect, ‘Tough luck.’ This is more than disappointing. It’s pathetic. It’s shortsighted, and frankly it’s a dereliction of duty.“
Although any secretary of state faces a platter full of important diplomatic issues, if she gets the nomination, it's unlikely there will be many, if any, Senate questions directed at Rice on climate change. The most crucial issue of our era, an issue of national security and the future well-being of billions of humans, will, at best, get one percent of the attention that is focused on the Benghazi attack. The Senate being on this issue sort of like the media.

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