'Today' Plays Softball With Susan Rice on Libya -- Not a Game John Bolton Could Play
NBC's Today interviewed Obama U.N. ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday about Libya. It was dull. It had no crackling opposition. There was one question doubting the effectiveness of sanctions. Despite plenty of conservative criticism about Obama's weak and delayed responses, and Rice's odd downplaying of the Libyan situation by skipping Security Council meetings to go to South Africa, there was no reading angry newspaper editorials or citing criticism from congressional opponents. This is not the way NBC played when John Bolton was U.N. ambassador under Bush -- not to mention that other black female named Rice. Here's the (brief) questions.
Let me start out by - you have called Qaddafi delusional and disconnected from reality. Plain and simple here, are we dealing with a mad man?
Well we've leveled these sanctions against Libya, but if this man, as he said clearly yesterday, has no intention of stepping down, then what good are these sanctions? What can they accomplish?
We have repositioned U.S. Naval ships in that region for what purpose?
This man, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the so-called "face of the revolution," how much credibility do you give him, does the government give him?...So we're not directly dealing with him?
Back on August 2, 2005, NBC's Today was telling John Bolton to have a terrible day in this Andrea Mitchell report: "Well today is John Bolton's first full day on the job as UN ambassador. His challenge there will be to shake up the organization, as the President wants, without alienating anyone who can help him get the job done. As he arrived at his New York offices Monday Bolton ignored a handful of passersby booing his appointment."
Later in the piece Mitchell ran a critical soundbite from this liberal scold named Sen. Barack Obama and a warning from UN secretary general Kofi Annan. Mitchell then concluded her snarky piece: "Bolton's top challenges at the UN will include building support for U.S. policy on Iran, Iraq and North Korea, exactly the issues on which his own credibility has been challenged in the past."
Minutes later, Katie Couric interviewed Senators Chris Dodd and George Allen about Bolton, with all of the questions bashing Bolton. She began with Dodd: "Senator Dodd, let me start with you. You've been one of the most vocal critics, I know, of, of John Bolton and President Bush's choice as the U.S. ambassador to the UN. What is your biggest objection to him?"
For a sense of what Rice could have been asked about, see Omri Ceren at Commentary on Rice's own moves, finding Libya wasn't a front-burner issue:
Susan Rice was instrumental in pushing the Obama administration to join the UN Human Rights Council, insisting that engagement would allow the U.S. to “shape” the council’s policies and membership. That proved to be a somewhat inflated assessment when Libya was soon afterward — and quite easily — elected to the notorious Israel-bashing body. Rice subsequently declined to criticize the ascension of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, instead complimenting the election.
So it’s entirely appropriate that the ambassador was unable to attend the emergency UN Security Council meeting on the violence sweeping Libya, on account of a global-sustainability conference in South Africa that had greater purchase on her attention:
At great personal risk to himself and his family, Libya’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, pushed the UN Security Council to take up the violence in his home country. … The dramatic event prompted the first UN meeting of the 15 member Security Council on the uprisings sweeping across the region since the beginning of Tunisia’s revolution. … The United States was represented by Foreign Service officer and Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo. … Rice, skipped the Libya meeting and instead flew to South Africa to attend a UN panel discussion on global sustainability.
It’s probably unfair to lay out the timeline this way, implying as it does that Rice’s absence was a Libya-specific thing. She misses lots of events that clash with her internationalist sensibilities and multilateral promises. The ambassador quite literally wasn’t in the room when Iran — a state that uses serial rape as a weapon against imprisoned dissidents — was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women committee. Presumably, someone didn’t like the optics of that debacle, coming as it did a few months after Rice insisted that the UN mission was spearheading Obama’s “change in the nature and tone of our relationships … [which] is yielding concrete and tangible benefits here at the United Nations.”
No one doubts that Ambassador Rice has a busy schedule. With the GOP looking to curtail UN funding, and with the UN’s own $43 million in-house PR shop not making much headway, she has recently taken to touring the country to give lectures on how “Main Street America Needs the United Nations.” But with the White House under fire for “voting present” on Libya — see Rick Richman’s brutal analysis of Obama’s speech — is it really a good idea to alter the narrative to “not even showing up to vote present”?