“If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to the president. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country. … Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”
Rice’s chances were damaged after her Sept. 16 appearances on Sunday morning TV shows defending the administration’s handling of the attacks on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
“The position of Secretary of State should never be politicized,” Rice wrote to Obama. “As someone who grew up in the era of comparative bipartisanship and as a sitting U.S. national security official who has served in two U.S. administrations, I am saddened that we have reached this point.”
In an interview with NBC News, which first reported the decision, Rice said she worried that a nomination fight would be “very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country, and the first several months of a second-term president’s agenda is really the opportunity to get the crucial things done. We’re talking about: comprehensive immigration reform, balanced deficit reduction, job creation — that’s what matters.”
She said she didn’t want her nomination to risk an agenda that was “delayed or distracted or deflected, or maybe even some of these priorities impossible to achieve.”
“I’ve defended her publicly and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again because I know her character and I know her commitment,” Kerry said. “As someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands on a personal level just how difficult politics can be, I’ve felt for her throughout these last difficult weeks, but I also know that she will continue to serve with great passion and distinction.”
But pressed by reporters afterward, Kerry answered no questions about whether he has spoken with the president about being the next secretary of state.
“I have no comment on the process,” Kerry said repeatedly as he quickly exited his office.
“I know nothing,” he said Thursday afternoon. Later, Reid released a statement saying Rice was “eminently qualified” to serve as secretary of state and “could have been confirmed by the Senate.”
He slammed the “politically motivated attacks on her character” as “shameful” and a “disgrace.”
Rice came under fire from several Republican senators, led by John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. During a brief hallway encounter at Rockefeller Center in New York on Thursday, Rice declined to respond to questions from POLITICO about McCain’s role her in withdrawal.