I’m sorry, but this photo does not inspire confidence


The White House was probably trying to assure us that, even though he’s very busy doing photo ops in Cuba, he’s really staying on top of the Brussels situation.

So we have this official photo showing POTUS in a (presumably, going by the riveted door and sound-absorbing panels) secure room at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission, with this cutline:

President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice talk on the phone with Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco to receive an update on a terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium. The President made the call from the residence of the U.S. Chief of Mission in Havana, Cuba, March 22, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But ya know, I’m not much assured. Not because the president’s looking all tense and worried, but because of the person sitting at his right hand.

I still get a little chill down my spine whenever I’m reminded that Susan Rice is the president’s national security advisor. That’s because I learned way more than I wanted to know about her back when she was floated as possible secretary of state. And almost everything I learned worried me.

Not just because her misspeaking got the ball rolling on the GOP’s Benghazi fixation, but because incident after incident in her history showed a lack of judgment and reliability — in Rwanda, and other places. Such as Sierra Leone.

Ours is a vast and resource-rich nation. We have loads and loads of really smart people, in academia, in government, at think tanks, in multinational corporations — people with great track records in dealing with a complicated world. Is Susan Rice, who has so many questionable items in her record, from the deadly serious to the trivial, really the best person in the nation to be at the president’s right hand in a crisis?

That seems doubtful to me…

15 thoughts on “I’m sorry, but this photo does not inspire confidence

  1. Howard

    It’s only a matter of time before we see this in this country, and terrorists have the advantage of determining when and where.

    1. Mark Stewart

      You mean like 9/11?

      Terrorists will always have the tactical advantage. We need to own the strategic ground.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Don’t know. “Settle” the Palestinian question – whether that is a two state solution or something else. Encourage Shia/Sunni confrontation and let God sort it out, or seek some sort of Northern Ireland solution.

          This has been going on since the hijackings of the early 1970’s, if not earlier. It is a cultural impulse. We need to confront that; not simply react to its manifestations.

          What I know is that Originalism is a false flag in every culture/religion. Including in Christianity and within our own political ideals. We should be mindful of that. We win by being accepting to and welcoming of “different” people. That’s our cultural strength. We should lever that.

          1. Claus

            So “peace in the Middle East” is going to stop attacks on this country? When was the last time there was peace in that part of the world? 40,000 BC?

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, this post wasn’t just about me seizing irrelevantly on a stray photograph and making a big deal about it. Media on both sides of the Atlantic greeted this particular photograph as an important bit of “optics” shaping intended to show that POTUS wasn’t just having a nice time attending ballgames in Cuba.

    From The Guardian:

    The White House tried to anticipate the image problem – Obama laughing with Castro about baseball while world leaders spoke of a war on western values – by releasing a photo on Tuesday morning of the president at his most intense.

    The furrowed brow, clenched fist in front of his face and downward stare are a study in gravitas. His national security adviser, Susan Rice, sits next to him, her eyes looking upwards in concentration. The thick folder of briefing papers underscores the difficulty and complication of the crisis, as does the White House’s note that the president was hearing from his homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco.

    But yeah, the complaining about Susan Rice being the only person sitting there with the president at such a moment — that was me. And it really DOES concern me that she holds THE critical position advising the president on the most critical decisions he is called upon to make.

    Whom do I want instead? As I said above, I know there are loads of highly qualified people out there, although I confess I don’t know enough about them to give a list of names. (I heard a really sharp German woman from the Brookings Institution this morning talking about the current situation, and was impressed. She had less of an accent than KIssinger, but she had a snippy, supercilious manner — repeatedly speaking to the interviewer as though he were a slow-witted undergraduate — that might be tough for a president to take, day after day.)

    If you allow me a fantasy pick, I’d go with Leo McGarry. Or, if it has to be a real person (but doesn’t have to be alive), I might go with George C. Marshall.

    The president needs a wartime consigliere — or a least someone without such a problematic track record. Pop had Genco, look what I got…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The woman I heard this morning was Constanze Stelzenmüller, the Robert Bosch senior fellow with the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.

      Anyway, SHE didn’t sound like the type who would go on TV days after we knew better and say Benghazi was a protest over a video…

  3. Mprince

    Whatever her other alleged faults may or may not be, Rice did not “misspeak” in her comments on Benghazi — as former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell demonstrated, in excruciating detail, in describing how those infamous talking points came about:

    1. Bart

      Mprince, this has been discussed, analyzed, dissected, and debated since the attack took place and to this day, no one can actually say for certain what role the video played in the attack. Some make the point that the White House was aware of the video and the planned release by the pastor in Florida along with the ones who made the video prior to the attack. The conflicting accounts are myriad and when there are so many versions of an event, the truth is usually the victim and everyone believes what they want to believe.

      The fact is that Susan Rice did go on 5 different talk shows and place the blame solely on the video and any person capable of thinking for themselves and not depending on others to do it for them should realize that even if the video was a part of the reason or a handy excuse, it was not the primary reason for the attack and subsequent deaths of 4 Americans. All Susan Rice apparently did was to follow orders and stay with the official talking points at that time. She was being a loyal advisor to the administration. Just as other administrations have had “loyal advisors” go on talk shows and either defend or try to explain away something that has gone terribly wrong.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “She was being a loyal advisor advocate for the administration.”

        Fixed it for you. She’s not there to give advice. She’s there as a surrogate, to advocate.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Folks, here’s my memory of Benghazi.

        On the day the news broke, we thought it had started with a protest over the video. We had good reason to think that. There were similar demonstrations going on elsewhere. It really was a thing.

        But within 24 hours, I read a news story that cited administration sources saying it was not a mere video protest; it was apparently a serious, determined terrorist attack. (I don’t know why I keep forgetting to keep that story when I find it. Once, awhile back, I mentioned my memory of it and that I couldn’t seem to find it, and someone here — I’m thinking maybe Scout — found it for me. Then I lost it again. So I feel like an idiot.)

        At no time after that did I think it was about the video, or — perhaps more to the point — that anyone was trying to make me think it WAS.

        Of course, I do not watch the Sunday morning talking head shows. I’m Catholic. I go to Mass. But even if I were a pagan, I wouldn’t spend part of my weekend that way. Even back before the Web, wire services provided summaries of anything newsworthy said on those shows, and I could read those Monday morning, so I’ve never felt that I’m missing anything by not watching them.

        But my understanding is that long after I knew better, and most people really paying attention should have known better, Susan Rice was saying it was about the video.

        I don’t think that was so awful (not nearly as horrible as the GOP thinks); it just lowers my opinion of her of her character and judgment. To the point that I would not want such a person advising me about important matters. And it seems part of a pattern with her…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, full disclosure: I don’t go to Mass until 1 most weeks. That’s because the Spanish Mass was moved to that time.

          But I’m not going to spoil my leisurely breakfast and reading the papers with all that talking head nonsense.

      3. Mprince

        Clearly, you (and Mr. Warthen) did not take advantage of the opportunity to view the interview with former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell at the link above. Or your bias makes you impervious to facts. Those now infamous talking points were vetted by multiple agencies — intelligence, military and diplomatic — not by the White House west wing.

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