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Five Takeaways From Obama’s Susan Rice appointment

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Photo by Bebeto Matthews

President Obama's choice of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security advisor is his way of reminding his conservative foes he can still confound them.

It wasn't exactly a surprise to hear that President Obama named UN Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security advisor.

Almost as soon as it became clear that her role in the administration's Benghazi talking-points snafu meant that Senate Republicans would never let her be confirmed as secretary of state if Obama nominated her, the possibility of her taking over from Tom Donilon as Obama's top national security aide was frequently mentioned.

Still, speculation is one thing, an actual appointment another. So what to make of Rice's appointment?

Here are 5 ways to look at it:

1) Barack Obama values loyalty

The appointment might be seen as a reward for Rice's early loyalty to the president. Rice, who held important posts in the Clinton administration, took a chance on Obama during his 2008 White House run when it was still unclear whether he or Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. She eventually became his foreign-policy adviser, a critical role for a presidential candidate who at the time was light on international experience.

2) Obama to GOP: In your face

So much for the charm offensive.

As trash-talking scorers sometimes say to their defenders in basketball, a sport both Rice and Obama played in prep school (she was a point guard), her selection is a glaring "in your face" to her and Obama's Republican opponents.

Since the national security adviser's post requires no Senate approval, conservatives opposed to her (not all are) will just have to deal with it.

Not only is Rice not going away, she'll have a high-profile position. Republicans will be reminded of their inability to deny her a cabinet-level position every time they see her in pictures with the president or when she visits Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers.

3) All Benghazi, all the time

Rice's new role pretty much guarantees that any time she's in the news, some conservatives will bring up her role in the Benghazi affair.

The appointment serves to give the Benghazi line of attack on Obama a new lease on life.

4) The White House has its privileges

Even as Obama's foes try to confound his second-term agenda, he has ways to confound them. There are appointments, for example, that don't require Senate confirmation and presidential powers, like executive orders, to achieve certain ends.

5) The diversity issue

One of the ironies of the first African-American president's time in office - a president whose immediate household is all female - is that he's drawn criticism for not having enough minorities or women in senior positions in his White House and administration.

Several of his second-term selections for top jobs have quieted that particular criticism. And the choice of Rice is one more significant step in that direction.

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