Rice pick signals more assertive Obama: US media

Washington, June 6 (IANS) President Barack Obama's snub to his Republican critics in naming long-time confidante Susan Rice as his top adviser was seen as signalling a more assertive president, but it was unclear how it would reshape the US foreign policy.

Currently ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who would replace the retiring Tom Donilon as the National Security Advisor, had courted controversy by her comments on the Benghazi terrorist attack, to lose the job of Secretary of State to John Kerry.

The influential New York Times said "Obama's defiant selection" of Rice Wednesday "underscored the newly assertive approach he has taken to appointments" ever since he was forced to "abandon" Rice amid a furore over the handling of the Benghazi attack.

"The unapologetic selections reflect a conclusion in the West Wing that when it comes to choosing personnel, the president can never satisfy Republicans who will find almost anyone objectionable," it said.

The Times also cited Neera Tanden, a former Obama official and president of the liberal Centre for American Progress, as saying in his second term "He's liberated from having to make an electoral calculation around any decision he makes".

The Washington Post wondered editorially if Rice's appointment could "signal a more activist US foreign policy?"

"Obama appears to be the animating force behind what increasingly looks like a broad US retreat from its longtime role as the world's 'indispensable nation'," it said, suggesting "there isn't much reason to expect that Rice's appointment would lead to a reversal of this strategy".

Nevertheless, the replacement of Donilon with Rice, "offers hope that the president will hear more advice from his inner circle in favour of an activist foreign policy," the Post said.

To CNN columnist John Avlon, Obama's choice of Rice and Samantha Power to succeed Rice at the United Nations "showed the freedom he felt now that he won the last election of his career last year".

"Susan Rice is not on the Republicans' Christmas card list, but this appointment, which doesn't need Senate confirmation, is being read as a slap in the face," Avlon said.

Obama's decision to name Rice as the NSA has angered Republicans who suggest that Rice's comments after the Sep 11 terrorist attack were a politically motivated effort to downplay the Benghazi attack in the middle of last year's election campaign.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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