United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on State of the Union (CNN Photo)
by Jessica Yellin and Tom Cohen
WASHINGTON (CNN) — In one move Wednesday, President Barack Obama managed to reshape his national security team, bring longtime confidante Susan Rice to the White House and annoy Republican critics of the U.N. ambassador.
Obama announced in the White House Rose Garden that Rice, who got caught up in political controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack, will replace the retiring Tom Donilon in the influential foreign policy post of national security adviser.
Donilon will step down in July following this weekend’s meetings between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The president also said he would nominate Samantha Power of the National Security Council to succeed Rice at the United Nations.
By choosing two women known as advocates for human rights, including the NATO-led intervention in Libya with U.S. support, Obama signaled a potentially more robust foreign policy in his second term.
At the same time, his decision to make Rice the head of his national security team angered Republicans who are demanding further details on what they believe was a politically motivated effort by the administration to downplay the Benghazi attack in the middle of last year’s election campaign.
While Obama made no direct reference to the politics of the announcement, he praised Rice for being “fearless, tough” and a great patriot who champions justice and human dignity.
“I’m absolutely thrilled she’ll be back at my side, leading my national security team for my second term,” Obama said with a smiling Rice at his side.