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U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, left, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, right, shake hands as they pose for a photo at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

 

Lee Smith has a provocative article up at Tablet Magazine on the prospects — and rationale — for Susan Rice to be named as the Vice-Presidential selection of Joe Biden.  Smith notes that while Rice’s name has been ostensibly part of the list of potential selections since Biden pledged to name  “woman of color” as his running mate, there has been a recent “boomlet” in favorable coverage of her in the Democrat establishment house organs the NYT, WaPo, and Politico just to name three.  So, what is driving this sudden emergence — other than the fact that every other “woman of color” having been given a “road test” has come up wanting?  How bad are things behind the scenes really when the face of the Obama Administration’s Benghazi lies becomes a leading candidate for Vice President?

Susan Rice has a rather modest historical involvement in politics.  She held positions on the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration, as well as in the State Department.  She rose to greater prominence in the Obama Administration, following the lead of her long-time mentor and close family friend Madeline Albright, Secretary of State during Clinton’s second term.  During the eight years of the Bush Administration, Rice decamped at the Brookings Institution.  She was a foreign policy advisor to the John Kerry Campaign, but in 2007 she was one of the first former Clinton Administration officials to back Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.  During the Obama Administration she served as Ambassador to the UN during his first term, and then obtained the position she coveted all along, National Security Advisor, for his second term.

Most famously, she wrote the “CYA” memo as her last official act on the day of Pres. Trump’s inauguration, memorializing for the record that Obama had told Sally Yates and Jim Comey that he wanted the investigation into the Trump Campaign’s ties to Russia done “by the book.”

Attorney General William Barr has stated that DOJ will take no action prior to election day — in terms of indictments — which could have the potential for influencing the election.  At the same time he has noted that to his knowledge, no one running for election is the subject of any DOJ investigation.  That would seem to rule out Joe Biden — rightly or wrongly.  A good case could be made that Biden’s current mental state would likely render him unable to competently assist in his defense, and on that basis would not be competent to stand trial even if he were under investigation.  It’s certainly possible THAT is the reason upon which AG Barr has ruled him out as a subject of any potential prosecution, and not because he and others associated with him might have engaged in criminal wrongdoing.  AG Barr would be grinning like the Cheshire Cat if he was to offer that explanation for why Joe Biden is not seen as a target.   Not competent enough to stand trial, but more than competent enough to serve as Democrat Party candidate for President.   Put that on a bumper sticker.

But is Susan Rice clear of the Durham investigation?  That’s hard to know.  We know from very early text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page that they exchanged messages about “The White House wants to know everything we are doing.”  From an organizational perspective, the most likely receptacle for the flow of information on Crossfire Hurricane from the FBI to the White House would be to the Chief of Staff or the National Security Advisor.  It seems to me doubtful that this is just a passive one-way flow of information from the Bureau to the WH, with no commentary or “direction” going the other direction, especially on matters of counterintelligence.  The more natural source of that kind of “direction” would be from the NSA, not the Chief of Staff.

But as a career bureaucrat and creature of Washington think tanks, Rice has zero experience in elective politics and has never campaigned as a candidate.  She is pretty much a denizen of Washington DC, so there is no natural constituency that she brings with her from a particular state or region of the country.  It’s hard to see how she helps Biden on the electoral map — other than by being a “woman of color” which Biden was already committed to.

She has been a relentless critic of the Trump Administration and would play the role of campaign “attack dog” effectively.

But, as Smith notes, if Rice was to be joined with Obama and Biden as being “off-limits” of the Durham probe prior to the election, anything Durham does announce would be one step further away from Obama and Biden, giving them further lattitude to blame misconduct on underlings in the FBI and DOJ acting on their own agendas in the months leading up to the election.

If Rice is part of Durham’s case, even without Obama or Biden being named, that “she’et” is going to splash onto them regardless of what AG Barr promised.

At this point there appear to be no “grand slam” candidates among Biden’s choices.  Kamala Harris seemed to check all the boxes except for the fact that she failed to energize the Democrat base during her own primary campaign.  More significantly, however, she made a bad impression on former Senator Chris Dodd in her explanation for why she attacked Biden in a personal fashion during the campaign on busing and civil rights, essentially labeling him as a “racist”.  That attack also is reported to have left a lasting sting with Biden’s family.

So if Harris is off the board, there is a remaining collection of mostly “B” candidates or worse, none of whom bring any significant national “heft” to the ticket.

And that brings us back to the merits of picking Rice.  Yes, she doesn’t offer much by way of electoral politics, and its an unknown on how she will impact voters as a candidate herself.  But if there is a real fear in the Biden camp for what Durham might do, Rice is as close as they can come to an “inoculation” to keep him at bay.