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Obama Names UN Ambassador Susan Rice as Next National Security Adviser

June 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: A new national security adviser is taking her place at the White House, after four years at the United Nations. Word of the realignment came today from the president.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am extraordinarily proud to announce my new national security adviser, our outstanding ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The afternoon announcement in the White House Rose Garden confirmed a long-anticipated shift. Rice replaces Tom Donilon, who’s stepping down after more than two-and-a-half years as national security adviser.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Susan is the consummate public servant, a patriot who puts her country first. She is fearless. She is tough.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That was as close as the president came to mentioning the fierce Republican criticism aimed at Rice after the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

She initially relied on the administration’s official version of events, depicting it as an act of Muslim outrage. Instead, it was a terrorist attack. Rice played no role in crafting the so-called talking points, but Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn of Colorado said today she shares some blame.

REP. DOUG LAMBORN, R-Colo.: And she went on the talk shows and just parroted the talking points that she was given. She showed no critical thinking. She showed no independent thought. And we need those qualities in a national security adviser. And she failed that test.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last December, amid the furor, Rice withdrew from consideration to be secretary of state. Unlike that post, the job of national security adviser doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

Today, a leading Senate critic of Rice, Republican John McCain, tweeted that he disagrees with the appointment, but will make every effort to work with her.

And Rice made clear she’s ready to get to work.

SUSAN RICE, National Security Adviser Designee: As you have outlined, we have vital opportunities to seize and ongoing challenges to confront. We have much still to accomplish on behalf of the American people. And I look forward to continuing to serve on your national security team to keep our nation strong and safe.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In four years at the U.N., Rice has advocated using economic and trade restrictions to try to rein in nuclear programs, both in North Korea …

SUSAN RICE: Taken together, these sanctions will bite and bite hard. They increase North Korea’s isolation and raise the cost to North Korea’s leaders of defying the international community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … and in Iran.

SUSAN RICE: Our aim remains to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program and negotiate constructively and in earnest with the international community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The ambassador also sharply criticized Chinese and Russian vetoes of U.N. resolutions aimed at the Syrian government.

To replace Rice at the U.N., the president today nominated Samantha Power. She is a human rights expert who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide a decade ago and who served as a White House adviser until earlier this year. Power also worked on the president’s 2008 campaign, but had to resign after making disparaging remarks about rival Democrat Hillary Clinton during the primaries.