[Inhofe] said Wednesday that his opposition to Rice is based on her U.N. tenure and the Benghazi issue, which he said “may end up being the biggest coverup that we’ve ever experienced in history.”Once you've stepped out that far on a limb, there's not much place to go. But Inhofe's craziness hasn't kept Oklahomans from reelecting him to the Senate twice.
It might be a surprise to some people, but President Obama has not nominated Rice as a replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obviously, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations is widely seen as Obama's first choice for that post when Clinton leaves, as she has said she will do. And he has spoken glowingly of Rice since Republican attacks began over her statements in the aftermath of the lethal assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11. But it's unusual to see such a relentless, full-bore blast of someone before they are nominated. Welcome to the new world.
Nearly as ludicrous as Inhofe's remarks is the assumption in the lead paragraph of Anne Gearan and Steven Mufson's Washington Post article on Rice:
The choice of a successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state has turned into an unexpectedly nasty political fight that could cost the White House valuable goodwill with Republicans.Ah yes, the warm afterglow in the wake of the Republicans' candidate's disastrous election campaign is at risk if Obama actually does nominate Rice. What planet do these journalists live on?
The U.N. envoy's abortive efforts on Capitol Hill this week to explain herself to her leading critics have done exactly what's to be expected when respectful attention is paid to people screaming disrespectfully for attention: They're enabled to scream for more. Instead of awaiting for the outcome of the FBI and Homeland Security Committee's investigations of the Benghazi assault, they are determined to recover from the drubbing the party got by challenging Obama over a nomination he hasn't made yet.
So thin is their case against Rice that Sen. Kelly Ayotte was yapping Wednesday about how the U.N. envoy should have revealed classified information about the Benghazi attack instead of presenting the talking points that the CIA had provided in the matter. That, of course, would have been illegal, something the junior senator from New Hampshire ought perhaps to know since she sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
How could the president keep all that (apparently secret) "goodwill"? Rice's Republican critics have made it clear that choosing John Kerry for secretary of state would make the confirmation hearings a breeze. That would, of course, open up a Senate seat in Massachusetts so Republicans could try to get Scott Brown back into play. I suppose there's some goodwill to be mined there.
The question, one that couldn't be seriously asked three weeks ago, is whether what appears to be growing opposition to the not-yet-nominated Rice can be turned into a filibuster, the only way she could be rejected given the Democrats 55-45 Senate majority. Not only would a filibuster over such a high-level appointment of an achievement-laden black woman have risks for Republicans who have severe problems with black and women voters, rules that make a filibuster more difficult may also be in place before a vote on any nominee occurs.
Unless Democratic opposition emerges against Rice, say over the Wednesday revelation about her extensive investment in TransCanada—the company that hopes to get administration approval for its Keystone XL pipeline—she is likely to have the support of every Democratic senator as well as independent Bernie Sanders.
The revelation about Rice's investments in TransCanada are at issue among environmentalists because the secretary of state will have to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the company's new application for Keystone XL, the 36-inch pipeline that would transport dirty tar sands oil across the nation's mid-section. But, since Hillary Clinton hasn't even formally offered her resignation, it's not unlikely that she would be the one to pass along for presidential approval an "aye" or "nay" on the pipeline, not her successor. And if Rice were picked before the pipeline matter came across the secretary's desk, she could simply recuse herself from any decision on Keystone.
However galling it is to environmental advocates—Bill McKibben has now spoken out about Rice's investments—it's unimaginable that a single Democratic vote could be found to turn her down over the issue. After all, John Kerry has substantial investments in several companies connected to tar sands, too. The web of corporate influence from the fossil fuel industry is not likely to block any appointments to any high positions.