What does Susan Rice bring to a Biden ticket?

Susan Rice’s name has been bandied about as Joe Biden’s running mate for a few months, but as of this week some might say that she is the clear frontrunner. There’s certainly a media blitz behind her, with articles in The Washington Post, New York Times, and Politico in the last several days.

At first, it may not be clear what she would bring to the campaign. She knows a lot about foreign policy—she served as Barack Obama’s former national security adviser and his first U.N. ambassador, and also served in the Bill Clinton administration’s State Department. But when picking a running mate, candidates usually look for people with additional gifts—and Biden himself has foreign affairs covered. He was a longtime member, and sometime chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and was Obama’s point man on Iraq, Ukraine, and China.

Moreover, Rice has no regional constituency because she has never run for elected office. Critics say she’s abrasive, she swears like a sailor, and her most noteworthy interaction with the American public was when she lied to it that the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead was not a planned terror operation. Rather, according to Rice, it was the result of spontaneous anger about an anti-Islam video that appeared on YouTube.

So why is she up for the VP slot? According to The Washington Post, Biden feels comfortable with her because, says former Obama deputy Ben Rhodes, he started his White House mornings with Rice briefing him on intelligence matters and, according to the Post, Biden would occasionally stop by her office for “light banter.” She has also, as part of her audition for the No. 2 spot, been boosting her profile in the last few months. In April, she was named co-chair of the ReOpen DC Advisory Group, counseling her hometown of Washington, D.C.’s leadership on when and how to bring the capital out of the coronavirus lockdown. The random exceptions to last week’s mandatory mask order for D.C.—like “vigorous outdoor exercise” and “legally smoking”—suggests that Rice and her colleagues see the city’s troubled economic and social condition as a campaign instrument to be wielded against Donald Trump.

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