“I just don’t know how the country will look in the next several months, but it would seem to me that we have a lot to do in this country, not to just restore the confidence in the American people, but we’ve got to restore confidence around the world,” Clyburn said. He told me he’d leave Biden to make a decision based on personal dynamics and polling, but “I don’t know that there’s another African American woman in the country, or any woman other than maybe Hillary Clinton, who has the stripes that she has on foreign policy.”
Before Rice became national security adviser, she served as Obama’s first United Nations ambassador. But although she has advised three presidential campaigns, she has never run for office herself. She’s also the star of Republican fever dreams about a Benghazi cover-up, and now the “unmasking” of Michael Flynn, her successor as national security adviser who was caught making assurances to the Russian ambassador. Supporters of Donald Trump have seized on an email she wrote to herself on the day of his inauguration, detailing an Oval Office meeting several weeks earlier with Biden, Barack Obama, and then–FBI Director James Comey discussing concerns about Flynn’s contact with Russians. Trump allies have insisted that the email, which appears to be purposefully memorializing the conversation for later reference, was part of a larger attempt to frame Flynn, though this is an idea that exists only in the ambiguous conspiracy of half-cooked allegations Trump calls Obamagate.
Read: Susan Rice's careful dance on Trump surveillance
Biden’s usual instinct is to avoid antagonizing his political opponents, which picking Rice clearly would. His campaign has shown some willingness to ignore conspiracy theorists: Andrew Weissmann, the top deputy to Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, was scheduled to headline a Biden fundraiser on June 2, for example. But the campaign canceled the event this morning after the Trump campaign criticized it.
Rice told me that she’s ready to be picked, if that’s where this process lands.
“I am honored, honestly, and I’m humbled that I might be being considered,” she said, “and I really truly care only about doing all I can to get Joe Biden elected and Donald Trump retired, because I truly deeply believe that the fate of our country depends on it.” She added, “I’ll help in whatever way I can and if that’s licking envelopes and raising money, that’s fine, and if it’s serving in a much more senior capacity, if that’s what Vice President Biden thinks makes sense, that’s fine, too.”
She declined to comment when I asked her how Trump’s “Obamagate” claims might factor into the running-mate selection process.
Biden has a variety of personal and professional connections to some of the other women his campaign is looking at, a group that includes several governors as well as Senator Elizabeth Warren, who set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before running to represent Massachusetts, and Senator Kamala Harris, who ran a huge office as attorney general of California. But Rice is the only one of these possibilities whom he’s worked with every day, during the eight years they both spent in the Obama administration, and none of the others has Rice’s level of experience in the executive branch, or in crisis management. Biden believed that reconstituting the gutted federal government after Trump was going to be a massive undertaking even before the coronavirus became a pandemic. In her own memoir released last year, Obama’s second UN ambassador, Samantha Power, wrote, “Susan was said to have a ‘black belt’ in bureaucracy,” and recounted early advice from her: “Act like you are the boss, or people will take advantage of you.”