Politics

Wait, didn’t Obama make U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice a Cabinet member? Why isn’t he listening to her on Egypt?

Amanda Carey Contributor

With the Egyptian protests dominating the news for weeks, some are wondering where America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has been.

“Susan Rice was quick to give us her opinion about every foreign policy issue facing the U.S. during the presidential campaign, but she has been largely absent from the debate since,” Richard Grenell, former spokesman for the last four U.S. ambassadors to the U.N, told The Daily Caller.

“She has failed to mount a U.N. reform effort, been silent on dictators getting elected to U.N. committees, missed Security Council meetings to support Israel and been timid on leading the U.N. to confront North Korea, Sudan, Iran and Egypt,” Grenell added.

Mark Groombridge, a former top adviser to Bolton, told TheDC that Rice’s silence could be attributable to the mixed messages from the White House throughout the crisis.

(Middle East protests spread to vital U.S. ally. Read More.)

“Part of the reason why Susan Rice was quiet on Egypt was because there were so many other voices in the administration speaking on Egypt and saying inconsistent things,” he said. “It is abundantly clear there was no coordinated policy in this administration on what to do.”

Rice’s lack of involvement could indicate the decreasing relevance of the U.N., despite the administration’s best efforts to boost the institution.

“My understanding is Rice just basically said, ‘Well, we’ll have to wait and see what happens,’” said Groombridge, “which reflects the impotence of the U.N. … and their ability to influence outcomes such as these, or be an important actor in these types of events.”

“It’s clear she [Rice] has been a non-player in this administration,” he said.

Rice was rumored in early February to have quietly pushed for a tougher U.S. stance on Mubarak’s regime. But for the most part, the ambassador, who served as foreign policy adviser to President Obama during his presidential campaign, has avoided weighing in publicly.

Instead, while the crisis unfolded in Egypt and U.S. foreign policy was recalibrated, Rice was hosting a Twitter Townhall event. She gave a speech in Portland, Ore., last week, titled, “Facing 21st Century Threats: Why America Needs the United Nations.”

In it, she briefly mentioned the ongoing protests, saying, “The United States will fully support a credible and irreversible transition to genuine democracy in Egypt,” before moving on to other issues.

Rice’s rumored internal push for a harder line on Mubarak was largely ignored, even while the White House continued to fumble its message. The experience signaled a significant switch from her vocal role during the campaign and her current role as U.N. ambassador, even though Obama gave Rice cabinet status – the first president to do so in recent history.

“As to Susan Rice, if she was indeed arguing for a tougher stance she was right,” Elliott Abrams, a former foreign policy adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, told TheDC. “But I have the impression that all key foreign policy issues are settled by the president, who is confident of his own views, and who doesn’t take much advice.”

As for the U.N., Abrams simply said: “The U.N. is irrelevant in this situation, as it usually is when it comes to democratization matters.”

“Rice has a track record of prodding the administration in the right direction on a number of foreign policy issues, including Sudan,” Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative. “But in this instance, it is difficult to ascertain whether her position won out because it was the Egyptian people, not the United States in the end that ensured that Mubarak left.”

Fly also pointed out that Rice’s dual roles as ambassador in New York City and cabinet member in Washington, D.C. may be hampering her ability to be a key player. “It is difficult to be an effective ambassador to the United Nations in New York and to also serve as an influential cabinet official in Washington,” he said.

Calls to the State Department for comment have not yet been returned.