How thrilling that President-elect Obama's national and international security team really does, as he promised, look like America. But that hasn't prevented the venting of some scuttlebutt on the Internet regarding Obama's decision to promote the position of U.N. Ambassador to Cabinet status. Thereby, Dr. Susan Rice, as U.N. Ambassador, will report directly to the President rather than to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The question this move raises is whether Obama is granting extra authority to supporters who were with him all along, and denying power to late-comers such as Clinton.
First some history on the position of U.N. Ambassador and its switch from being, to not being a Cabinet spot:
To reinforce his intention to work more closely with the United Nations after the tensions of President George W. Bush's tenure, Obama plans to restore the ambassador's post to cabinet rank, as it was under President Bill Clinton, according to Democrats close to the transition.
While the cabinet consists of 15 department heads, a president can give other positions the same rank for the duration of his administration.
"She's obviously one of Obama's closest advisers, so it underscores how much of a priority he's making the position," said Nancy Soderberg, a senior U.S. diplomat at the United Nations under Bill Clinton. "If you look at the last eight years, we obviously need to be more engaged at the UN and realistic about what the UN can do."
Perhaps even more controversial is Dr. Rice's public statement that she will be calling former U.N. Ambassadors for advice about the job. But she's not going to solicit advice from the current occupant of that job:
At the Chicago rollout yesterday of president-elect Barack Obama's national security team, between the surprising continuity of keeping Robert Gates as defense secretary and nominating Hillary Clinton to head the State department--not to mention the onstage repetition of bromides like "bipartisanship" and "pragmatism"--it was easy to forget what a seismic change Susan Rice will bring as ambassador to the United Nations. It's not just that, as Matt Yglesias points out, Rice will assume a "cabinet-rank" position as UN ambassador that gives her more sway than perhaps even Bush UN ambassador John Bolton, whose indifference to his own jurisdiction was legendary. It's that she will bring an entirely different philosophy of global interaction to the UN.
For what it's worth, women's rights groups see major gains for their issues on the Obama security team:
Various interest groups and lawmakers issued statements today reacting to Barack Obama's six-person national security team. Three advocacy groups for women weighed in positively on the three female nominees: Sen. Hillary Clinton, Dr. Susan Rice and AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano:
Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards:
"Today, President-elect Obama announced a strong foreign policy team that will approach issues of women's health and rights, family planning, and global poverty with the seriousness and commitment they deserve. Planned Parenthood applauds the nomination of Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador."
--Read more by Bonnie Erbe.
--Read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
--Read more about the Obama transition.
By Bonnie Erbe