Report: Obama Conflicted Over Whom to Nominate as Secretary of State

Getty Images

President Barack Obama is said to be “genuinely conflicted” over whether he should nominate U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice or Sen. John Kerry to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Two White House officials told the National Journal that both candidates are still under consideration, though Obama is leaning heavily toward Rice, one of his closest advisers since 2007.

“She and the president are on exactly the same page on all foreign-policy issues,” a White House official said, adding that “it would be clear to foreign leaders that when Susan Rice is speaking she’s speaking for the president.”

But Obama also “really respects John Kerry, who did an amazing job on debate prep. He respects Sen. Kerry as a leading figure in our party.”

Obama told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday no decision has been made yet, but the officials said the announcement could come as soon as next week, the Journal reported.

Rice has come under harsh criticism, primarily by Republicans, for her initial comments calling the deadly terror assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya a response to an anti-Islam film. Obama publicly came to her defense last month, saying senators who “go after” Rice have “got a problem with me.”

But according to the Journal, there are other concerns about Rice beyond Libya — whether she is “temperamentally suited for the job” as she reportedly does not take criticism well.

Clinton herself reportedly favors Kerry for her job. The Massachusetts Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations chairman has also been mentioned as a possible nominee to replace Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

A serious consideration in nominating Kerry to either post would be whether his vacant Senate seat could be left vulnerable for a Republican challenger, particularly the just-defeated former Sen. Scott Brown.