Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican voice on foreign policy, tweeted that he disagreed with Obama’s appointment but added that he would “make every effort to work” with Rice on important issues.
In a statement later Wednesday, McCain expressed support for Power, calling her “well-qualified” for the job as U.N. ambassador and saying he hoped the Senate would act quickly on her nomination.
Power worked for Obama’s campaign in 2008 until she resigned after referring to Clinton — the other leading Democratic contender at the time — as a “monster.”
She is senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council and a former special assistant to the president. Power also has written extensively on preventing genocide, with criticism of the United Nations for failing to stop attacks in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Avlon called Obama’s move “a coalescing within the Obama administration” by promoting “two women who are in policy terms not that far from their Republican critics. “
“The president is circling the wagons, appointing stronger supporters from his inner circle. That’s what second-term presidents do,” Avlon said, adding “these are actually strong, confident moves in a Democratic foreign policy that believes in humanitarian intervention.”
Now, he said, the roles of Rice and Power raise “real questions about what the administration will do going forward in Syria,” where critics at home and abroad contend the Obama administration has failed to intervene as needed.
Obama called himself “wistful” to be losing Donilon, the former deputy national security adviser who Obama picked to replace retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones in October 2010. Donilon was heavily involved in the raid to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011, as well as the administration’s strategic shift of foreign policy focus to Asia.
Donilon, who also was chief of staff to Secretary of State Warren Christopher in the Clinton administration, is married to Cathy Russell, whom Obama recently nominated to be the State Department’s ambassador at large for global women’s issues.
The president lauded Donilon’s commitment, including in-person briefings almost every day in recent years on a portfolio that covered “literally the entire world.”
“I’m personally grateful for your advice, for your counsel, most of all for your friendship,” Obama said, adding that “a president can’t ask for anything more” than the contributions and service of Donilon.
When he finished, the two men shook hands and embraced.
CNN’s Jim Acosta and Adam Aigner-Treworgy contributed to this report.