Why Did Susan Rice Drop Out of the Race for Secretary of State? Dr. Michael Fauntroy Discusses with Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Fauntroy: I’m doing well.
Dr. Watkins: Good. Good. When you saw what happened recently with Susan suddenly withdrawing, were you surprised? And, what was your reaction overall?
Dr. Fauntroy: A part of me was really surprised about it in part because she’s imminently qualified and there was every indication that the President would go to war for her to get her nomination through the Senate. Obviously, something has changed along the way. She has been attacked unfairly, in my judgment, by Senate Republicans, primarily Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham. But, I thought she could have weathered that storm in part because she is very well qualified and there’s no legitimate argument to vote against her. So, the only real calculation I could come up with was the President decided that he didn’t want to burn the political capital that would be necessary to get her across the finish line.
Now, that presents us with potential problem here because the next person in line is Senator John Kerry from all immediate accounts. If he, in fact, is the next choice as Secretary of State — and, quite frankly, I believe the Republicans would love that, not because they have great feelings for Kerry, per say, but that it would reopen the Massachusetts Senate seat. That Scott Brown, who just lost last month, would then be the front-runner to win that seat. So, it’s about — in part, it’s about politics, it’s about Senate control. It’s about some of the very nasty things that too often happen in this city. And, it’s like an onion. As soon as you peel back one layer, you see something else that has to be dealt with as well.
Dr. Watkins: Wow. That’s really interesting. So, in your expert opinion — of course I know you may not know all the facts on this but you understand it better than most of us do. Do you think that the shortcoming on this — it takes at least two people to tango, sometimes three–Do you think that the short circuit in her moving forward was driven by something going on with her, maybe something that she didn’t want to have to deal with, something she didn’t want to discuss? Do you think that it was her decision? Do you think that the President was behind it? What do you think happened in terms of who actually led to them just pulling the plug on this whole thing?
Dr. Fauntroy: Well, I do not know Ambassador Rice. I know people who know her and she is eminently ambitious. Remember, she served as U.N. Ambassador toward the end of the Clinton administration. That job historically has been one of the prime, sort of, hand stamps if you will, for a future Secretary of State. She has known for 20 years, well let’s say 15 years, that she was on the track to become a Secretary of State. So, I’m certain that she has conducted herself accordingly and has no skeletons or anything like that that at this late stage in the game would be a problem. So, I can only assume that it’s political and that at some point along the way, either she said, “Mr. President, I want this job but I don’t want it so much that it’s going to continue to cause controversy.” So there we have it.
Having said that, that doesn’t mean that she won’t get another shot at some point down the line. Things change. Things happen. And let’s say Senator Kerry is appointed to become Secretary of State, you would expect him to complete a four-year term but you never know. So, it’s very possible that she could still end up as Secretary of State.
Now, let me just add quickly this one point: She is certainly young enough so that if another Democrat were to become President, she would still be in the game to become Secretary of State. From a purely long-view perspective, she’s still young enough where she could come back at some point along the line and get that job. She’s not even 50. So, she has time. And, it’s better to bide your time, again, even though she doesn’t want to, than it is to go through some really nasty fight now and you may win. And then, the question becomes, “What if you won?”
Dr. Watkins: Very interesting. Okay, so, my last question for you — and then I’m going to let you go because I know that you’re very busy.
From your perspective, politically, how do you feel about Susan Rice as Secretary of State? What kind of Secretary would she have made? I know we all agreed that it seems she’s qualified for the job but what kind of Secretary of State would she have been politically in terms of how she conducts herself on the job?
Dr. Fauntroy: That’s a very difficult question to ask — to answer rather. I would say a few things though: One, she’s knows all the players around the world. Many of the players around the world at the Secretary of State level have previously served in the United Nations. So, she knows all the players. She would have brought to that job a level of confidence and continuity that I think is important. And for that reason, I think she would have been an — she would have had the potential to be a very effective Secretary of State. Now, she wouldn’t have come to the job with the stature of a say Hilary Clinton or for that matter a John Kerry, but she certainly would have been for the good of the job.
Dr. Watkins: Very Interesting. Well, I think based on that analysis, I probably am similar to a lot of people listening in that I’m sad to see her walk away from the opportunity. She was the first African American to serve in her current post from what I understand. So, she’s a highly accomplished woman. Somebody we can all be proud of. And, it’s interesting to know how the political calculus works so I appreciate you sharing your expertise on the issue. Thank you very much, my brother. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Fauntroy: It’s my pleasure, man. It’s always good to talk to you.
Dr. Watkins: Absolutely. Dr. Fauntroy, can you give us your website or your Twitter, whatever it is that you want people to use to get in touch with you?
Dr. Fauntroy: Yeah. Anybody can check me out at MichaelFauntroy.com. That’s
F-A-U-N-T-R-O-Y. There’s a whole bunch of video and audio clips there and also on Twitter, @MKFauntroy.
Dr. Watkins: All right. Everyone this is Dr. Michael Fauntroy. He has a PhD in political science. Now, when you go turn on CNN and other networks, see how many of those people have doctorates in this stuff and have been studying this for 20 years. I’m tired of simply hearing the opinions of people who happen to have the best publicist. Dr. Fauntroy and Dr. Wilmer Leon are two people I go to when I really want to understand how politics works because I’d rather have the truth than to have something that may seem a little flashier at the time. I don’t know.
So, until we meet again, please, stay strong, be blessed, and be educated. We are gone.
Dr. Fauntroy: Thank you, brother.