President Barack Obama will name United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice as his national security adviser and nominate Samantha Power, his former human rights adviser and an outspoken advocate of U.S. intervention in foreign crises, to succeed Rice.
Tom Donilon, the current White House national security adviser, plans to leave the post in early July after more than four years. The shakeup in the president’s team would put Rice, a target of Republican criticism, in charge of the administration’s national-security machinery. Rice doesn’t need confirmation by the Senate, while Power will.
Obama’s choices of Rice and Power reflect his willingness to take on Republican critics in his second term. Both women have often clashed with Republicans, especially in Rice’s confrontations over her explanations about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
“You’re going to have some really powerful people in these positions who know him well and speak for him,” said Tommy Vietor, a former spokesman for the National Security Council who left the White House in March. “It’s a powerful signal of very senior women in this administration. Neither got the job because of their gender, but their gender sends an important message not just to women in the U.S. but around the globe.”
Yesterday, Obama named three judicial nominees to vacancies on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and essentially dared Senate Republicans to filibuster their confirmation, accusing the opposition party of political obstructionism. On Capitol Hill, the nation’s top military leaders clashed with female senators over how to improve the military’s handling of sexual assault investigations and prosecutions.
Rice had worked for former President Bill Clinton, and her move to support Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign over Hillary Clinton’s created waves.
Donilon recently returned from China, where he met with officials to pave the way for Obama’s talks in California later this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping on an agenda that will include computer hacking.
Donilon, 58, has been national security adviser since Obama took office in January 2009. Donilon preferred working behind the scenes and focused largely on counterterrorism in the world’s trouble spots, especially in Asia and Africa. He played a key role in the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Her professional rise has followed a similar trajectory, with Obama naming her as U.S. ambassador to the UN. Still, her appearances on the talk shows after the attacks in Benghazi provoked concern among some Republican critics, compounded by a blunt and confrontational style.
Two Republican senators threatened to block Rice if she were nominated as secretary of state, drawing a rebuke from Obama, who defended her at a Nov. 14 press conference.
Rice has done “exemplary work” and represented the U.S. “with skill and professionalism and toughness and grace” and “to besmirch her reputation is outrageous,” Obama said at the press conference. Still, he ended up nominating Senator John Kerry to the post.
The appointment of Rice may further consolidate the shaping of foreign and security policy inside the White House, said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy center.
At the White House, Power was a public advocate of government efforts to halt human-rights abuses and pressed Obama for U.S. intervention in Libya on humanitarian grounds. More broadly, she’s advocated the use of limited military force to achieve humanitarian ends in cases such as Bosnia and Rwanda. She opposed the war in Iraq, in part because the U.S. didn’t make an issue of Saddam Hussein’s human-rights record.
Power, an author, journalist and professor, earned the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for her book “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” which examined U.S. foreign policy toward genocide in the 20th century.
She’s a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School. She was a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she taught courses on U.S. foreign policy, human rights and extremism, and where she was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
She was a columnist at Time magazine and reported from such places as Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe.