Susan Rice Should Get Used to That High Road

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Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In the wake of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's withdrawal from the running for Hillary Clinton’s job, Rice's allies have been quick to chastise Senate Republicans who politicized her appointment, perhaps with the hope of giving Scott Brown a chance at Rice runner-up John Kerry’s Senate seat. Madeleine Albright, a lifetime friend, told the Huffington Post that her treatment was “appalling.” President Obama said that he deeply regrets the unfair and misleading (Get it?) attacks on Rice. But not Rice. Although she’s known for her bluntness and her bird-flipping, it’s hard to imagine a more dignified and graceful exit from this brouhaha than her Washington Post op-ed today.

It took Republicans to task, not for being total dicks, but for being a total distraction, thereby reinforcing her commitment to public service. “I’ve devoted my life to serving the United States and trying to mend our imperfect world,” she wrote. “That’s where I want to focus my efforts, not on defending myself against baseless political attacks.” She added that she has and will continue to do that in the U.N., because she has a great job. (No whining.) Every line, down to its headline — “Why I made the right call” — actively prevents being cast as a victim. By stressing her service, and not the position, she takes ambition out of it.

It's undeniably the high road, but according to the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta, it’s also the norm. “The woman who would succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state has revealed she's gotten just a small taste of what it actually has been like to be Hillary Clinton over the years,” she wrote. Forty-eight to Clinton’s 65, Rice should dig in her heels for a few more decades of attacks on her temperament (like the unnamed White House aides who tell the Times she's not friendly or chatty enough) and conservative conspiracies. Franke-Ruta writes:

“Hillary Clinton went through 15 years of this stuff before becoming, under Obama, the woman everyone loves, a woman whom Chris Cillizza just dubbed "the new Teflon Clinton." It was only a few years ago she was "likable enough," according to Obama -- a woman whose "vocal range" revealed her to be "the stereotypical bitch," as Glenn Beck put it.”

Our positive reaction to Rice stepping down is already reminiscent of the Hillary Clinton paradox Ann Friedman wrote about this week: “To succeed, she needs to be liked, but to be liked, she needs to temper her success.” Franke-Ruta reports that Clinton and Rice are confabbing today, presumably to gloat about ruling the world in 2016, talk hair strategy, throw darts at a picture of John McCain's face, and do other unlikable things in private.