Susan Rice Out of Consideration for Secretary of State; Leon Panetta May Be Out as Defense Secretary Within a Month

President Obama must also choose a new CIA director and may shuffle other top national security positions as well


U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is no longer interested in being considered for the position of Secretary of State, which Hillary Clinton signaled an intent to vacate by next year, because partisan politics. From NBC News:

Embattled U.N. envoy Susan Rice is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments.

"Today, I made the decision that it was the best thing for our country, for the American people that I not continue to be considered by the president for nomination of secretary of state," Rice told NBC's Brian Williams.

"I didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and 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."

A putative Susan Rice hearing would likely be prolonged and politicized because of the prolonged manner in which the government laid out a narrative on the attack on the consulate in Benghazi and the narrative's politicized nature.

With Rice officially out, John Kerry is probably feeling a lot more comfortable about his shot at the position, the coveting of which he hasn't made much of a secret.

Kerry was (is?) apparently also in the running to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense, though Bloomberg is now reporting former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel at the top of that list.

Panetta is apparently not interested in serving under a second Obama term, though he hasn't made any public statements about when he might leave. His replacement would become the third defense secretary under President Obama with the war in Afghanistan not much closer to an end than when Obama took office. George W. Bush, of course, had more stability at Defense. He kept Donald Rumsfeld for six years, despite Rumsfeld having offered his resignation on at least one occasion and the eruption of multiple scandals at the Pentagon (Abu Ghraib, for example) as well as an ill-conceived and mismanaged land invasion and occupation of Iraq. So staying the course is certainly not always desirable. Nevertheless, Panetta's departure ought to be frustrating at the very least because of how much government money Panetta spent commuting between the Pentagon and his home in California, for a job he'll end up keeping for less than two whole years during a period when America might have well blown its best opportunity to exit Afghanistan on its terms and not the Taliban's.

Hagel, for what it's worth, opposed the war in Iraq (like President Obama, who ended up trying to prolong it anyway). Hagel's also said as recently as last year that it was time for America to "start heading toward the exits". You should probably remain cautiously pessimistic anyway.