Efforts of the part of the Republican Party to block the possible nomination of United Nations Ambassador, Susan Rice, to replace Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State, have taken an all too familiar turn in American history. Similar to the symbolic actions taken in 1956, when the Supreme Court ordered school desegregation, “With All Deliberate Speed,” the House Republicans…lame duck House Republicans, mind you, have sought to take a meaningless stand in the debate around who will be the next lead diplomat for the United States.
Ambassador Rice has come under fire for her real-time briefing of the situation in the Benghazi attack of the U.S. Embassy in Libya—that killed four Americans. Rice reported based on the intelligence she had, which Republicans are now calling intentionally false and misleading statements. Up until this point, Susan Rice had been one of the stars of the Obama Administration. She was considered an expert in foreign relations and a competent diplomat. Enough so, that she’s on President Obama’s “short list” for Secretary of State when Secretary Clinton leaves after the 2013 Inauguration.
By most accounts, she appears to be one of the President’s favorites. Some even call her the top choice. That’s what makes members of Congress a little nervous. Why? We don’t know. All we know is suddenly there’s a Republican block threatening to block her confirmation before she’s even been nominated. It’s like telling the President, “Don’t even think about it.” Now, here’s the kicker…it’s from people who can’t even confirm her. The Senate confirms all Presidential appointments and judicial nominations.
So, why is the powerless House up in the President’s grill on this? The politics of obstructionism again? Maybe. Another ideological grandstand? Probably. Coded symbolism (racism and sexism)? More than likely? To try to force the President’s hand another direction? Very unlikely. It’s primarily a signal to the Senate and Senator John McCain that they support the criticism of Susan Rice—flawed as it is—so that minority in the Senate won’t feel so alone. The filibuster is coming, but it will be seen as more stonewalling by a few members of the Senate. The House petition just makes the Red Monster look a little bigger, but no more challenging of a hurdle than it actually is. The House has no more authority to block Rice’s confirmation than Congress could reverse the Supreme Court outlawing unconstitutional law.
Still the Republicans thought it was worth a try, and they sent out the clowns, via a letter from Congressman Jeff Duncan with 97, that’s right, ninety-seven signatures on it. It’s basically a bunch of mis-allegations over what they thought who said what. See the letter here.
Now the question is, what does it really stand for? Ninety-seven signatures is less than 25% of house members. Is this a Tea Party flex alert? A call to arms for their beleaguered brothers after such a resounding defeat? Or just the Southern Manifesto, revisited?
The Southern Manifesto was an attempt by Southern Congressmen to block the implementation of Brown v. Board of Education, first by declaring “interposition,” a theory that states rights were supreme in their own sphere of authority and that federal law couldn’t overturn state law or the states rights in the Tenth Amendment if the Constitution remains quite on the question (it can if it violates the Constitution). Or by “nullification,” a theory that the state could “nullify” federal law when they felt that it didn’t either apply to the state or agree with the state. It was a Civil War term that became outdated with the passing of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, still they tried to revive almost 90 years later. One hundred and one congressmen, 99 Dixiecrats and only two Republicans—all from the South, signed the manifesto, calling for the Supreme Court to reverse itself on Brown. When it didn’t, then they called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren. It didn’t work, but it fueled the Massive Resistance Movement for ten years until Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The point in the comparison?
President Obama has a lot to look forward to when he presses forward with the Rice appointment. These Republicans are from all over the country. The one thing they have in common, resisting Obama—based on irrational premises and practices. Blocking Rice is an exercise in advanced obstructionism. They’re pulling out the whole playbook now.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen it, but we’ve seen it all before. The threat is greater than the reality. If Rice is nominated, she is qualified and should receive fair consideration.