In interview, Susan Rice explains role in WH decision-making; ‘People know not to mess with me’

“We normally get our instructions on various issues from the State Department or the White House,” she wrote, describing an unnamed situation in 2011 “where it wasn’t a big deal that we had to litigate at the highest levels.”

“In that instance, I would be at the table in Washington and argue my point of view. The president or somebody else would make a decision and we’d have to implement it,”” Rice explained. “This was not of … a [high] degree of profile, but it had the potential to poison the atmosphere here at the UN and create some resentment toward us that I figured we didn’t need to create.”

Rice continued, exploring the tactical toolbox she used to manipulate the decision-making process and get her way.

“The original instruction was to go kill this proposal outright with blunt force,” she recalled in the interview. “My team in Washington got me a modified instruction that didn’t soften it as much as I wanted. It basically said, kill it with a bunch of questions. But these are questions that I had already delayed it with six weeks ago, so to come back with that tactic wasn’t going to work, either. I decided to do it a different way, toward the same end. My view is that, if we can kill it without a lot of cost, that’s fine.”

“I created an environment in which we may not have to kill the proposal overtly ourselves, and the thing can collapse of its own weight. … It’s fun to figure out not just what it is we have to do, but also to have some opportunity to carry out how we do it.”

Rice also discussed in the interview her professional demeanor and management style.

“I’m straightforward,” she said. “People know when they talk to me that what they see is what they get — that I’m not playing games. I think that’s very important. They see me as pretty open and collaborative, tough when I need to be, but not confrontational for my own sake. I think people know not to mess with me. And if they haven’t learned, and they try, then they will learn.”

Rice confessed that one weakness persisted from her days as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs: a lack of patience.

“Patience still isn’t my strong suit. I began recognizing that the best way to get from A to Z was not always in a straight line … sometimes you need to tack and adjust. Sometimes you have to slow down to bring as many people along as possible,” she recalled.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have pledged to oppose Rice’s nomination if Obama puts her forward to be Secretary of State.

“If I wanted to be secretary of state, I would not go on television and perform what was essentially a political role,” said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, ranking member on the Homeland Security committee.

But Rice may be up for the fight.

“[T]here’s nothing about my work or my job that I inherently fear,” she said in the book. “I never have. I worry about some of the issues we’re dealing with, which are really challenging, but I’m not afraid.”

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