Obama reshapes national security team, rankles GOP

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Rice became the focus of Republican criticism after the terrorist attack last September 11 on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Five days after the assault that came on the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, Rice appeared on Sunday news shows to say it was a spontaneous development during a protest, rather than a terrorist strike.

She had been considered a top contender to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the start of Obama’s second term, but Republican opposition over the erroneous CIA talking points she had delivered forced her to withdraw her name from consideration in December.

Obama ultimately nominated former U.S. Sen. John Kerry for the post.

As national security adviser, Rice will play a key role in developing and guiding the administration’s foreign policy.

Unlike a Cabinet post, the appointment requires no Senate confirmation, allowing Obama to avoid a showdown with Republicans in giving a new job to one of his most public foreign policy voices during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Rice also has been a deputy secretary of state and was previously considered a possible candidate for the national security adviser job when Obama appointed Donilon.

She said Wednesday that she was “humbled” to serve as Obama’s national security adviser and thanked the president for his confidence in her.

Mindful of the need to work with the various government, law enforcement and military entities involved in national security, she declared her admiration for “the exemplary work done every day by our colleagues at State, Defense, the intelligence community and across the government” to keep the nation safe.

To columnist and CNN Contributor John Avlon, Obama’s choice of Rice and Power showed the freedom he felt now that he won the last election of his career last year.

“Susan Rice is not on the Republicans’ Christmas card list, but this appointment, which doesn’t need Senate confirmation, is being read as a slap in the face,” Avlon said. “President Obama says he doesn’t much care. He is rewarding Susan Rice for her loyalty to his administration and moving her into the White House. She can have more influence now than she ever did on White House policy.”

He called it a “fascinating, decisive move” by a president “who is apparently liberated by a second term, who is not worried about burning bridges with Republicans and Congress who are already his critics.”

Republicans immediately criticized Obama’s choice, with conservative GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah tweeting: “Judgement is key to national security matters. That alone should disqualify Susan Rice from her appointment.”

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