The accusations against Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and potential nominee for secretary of state, continue. They took a new turn on Monday as an Eritrean-American, Salem Solomon, wrote for the New York Times op-ed page about Rice’s supposed affections for a new generation of strongmen of Africa.
This article comes at an inopportune time, since Rice is now being hammered for all sorts of reasons — many of them specious. It feels more like piling on than fair-minded criticism. It is particularly unfortunate because partisanship is complicating efforts to determine whether Rice would be a strong choice as secretary of state.
I have written before about Rice, who is a friend and former colleague. I’m an admirer of her work, though this is not to suggest that she would necessarily be a better choice for secretary of state than Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) or someone else. But she is a capable public servant and a serious candidate for the job. The recent criticisms — including the New York Times commentary — are often unfair.
Solomon asserts that Rice has been too close to autocratic rulers in six countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. He uses this contention to conclude that she should not be secretary of state.
But leave aside the nuance in Rice’s various positions toward these countries over the years, as well as her tough stances toward the leadership of Sudan. Leave aside as well the fact that in many African countries, with their weak political systems, there are no great choices to support. Solomon’s argument, however, fails even before getting into such complexities.