…Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.
Among those she has insulted is the woman she would replace at State. Rice was one of the first former Clinton administration officials to defect to Obama’s primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Rice condemned Clinton’s Iraq and Iran positions, asking for an “explanation of how and why she got those critical judgments wrong.”
Clinton got a measure of revenge in 2010 after she worked out a deal with the Russian foreign minister on a package of Iran sanctions to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council. The White House wanted Rice to make the announcement (part of a campaign to increase her profile that included high-visibility foreign trips and TV appearances), but a Clinton aide got Kerry to ask Clinton about the matter during an unrelated Senate hearing.
Rice’s put-down of Clinton was tame compared with her portrayal of McCain during 2008, which no doubt contributes to McCain’s hostility toward her today. She mocked McCain’s trip to Iraq (“strolling around the market in a flak jacket”), called his policies “reckless” and said “his tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later. It’s dangerous.”
…I recalled an interview I had watched on TV during the 2008 election campaign. Susan Rice, then a foreign-policy adviser to candidate Barack Obama, was asked to defend Obama’s statement that as president he would be willing to meet, free of preconditions, with leaders of nations that were hostile to the U.S.
A questioner asked Rice about the difficulties encountered by President John F. Kennedy when he went to Vienna in 1961, at the beginning of his term, to meet with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on an open agenda. Rice asserted that the Kennedy-Khrushchev sessions were actually constructive because the personal relationship established by the two leaders allowed them, the following year, to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I wondered how many people had noticed that answer. At least one other listener had, and had posted a clip on YouTube. You will not find the clip today because YouTube has removed it, citing “third-party notifications of copyright infringement.” Anyway, Rice said of JFK’s willingness to go to Vienna: “Thank God he did, because if he hadn’t we would have not been able to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Like my friend Paula, Ms. Rice delivered her assertion emphatically, with all the confidence in the world. And it counted for nothing that Ms. Rice had been brazenly inaccurate. At Vienna, Khrushchev wiped the floor with Kennedy and the effect was to increase the bellicosity of both men. The meeting let loose violent impulses that raised the Berlin Wall, deepened the Vietnam War and put Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.