Exit Susan Rice

Had Republicans never decided to make Susan Rice take the fall for Benghazi, I doubt liberals would have been rooting for her to take over State. She was one of the Clintonite interventionists who became an Obama interventionist. She had investments in Keystone XL; she was a key voice for the Libya NFZ, which wasn’t immediately popular on the left.

But Republicans did go after her, which means that liberals can only be depressed at this.

In a letter to President Obama, Ms. Rice said she concluded that “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. The tradeoff is simply not worth it to our country.”

Mr. Obama, who spoke with Ms. Rice on Thursday, said he accepted her request with regret, describing her as “an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant.”

“While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

Give Rice some points for leading with the obvious. She isn’t ducking the nomination because she wants to Spend More Time With Her Family. (She’s staying at the U.N. for now, anyway.) She was mau-mau’d, and she pays respect to the mau-mau’ers. Republicans wanted a Benghazi scalp, and they want John Kerry to vacate his Senate seat to create a special election, the only kind of race that the increasingly irritated-sounding Scott Brown has been able to win. (He finishes out 2012 with approval numbers in the mid-50s, lower than they were before his negative race against Elizabeth Warren.)

But what are the implications? The other leading candidate for State, if you believe the Great Mentioner (the voiceless God who sources all those stories about who might get jobs), is Kerry. Republicans despised him up until the moment they decided they despised Rice more. He started his career as an anti-war Vietnam Veteran, presiding over “winter soldier” hearings where fellow vets publicized atrocities. He got to the Senate in 1985 and took the left’s side on intervention in Central America. He voted against the first Gulf War. It would be the height of all ironies if the first big Republican “win” of the lame duck is… the promotion and elevation into history of the “atrocities in the manner of Genghis Khan” guy.