WASHINGTON -- As the president fleshes out his second-term cabinet, a bit of guesswork and mythology has developed about the process and decision-making.
In certain corners of the foreign policy community, two theories in particular have developed. The first is that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was promised the position of secretary of state only to have it taken away under the weight of Republican opposition. The second is that Obama never actually considered Rice for the post, instead, having her name floated to divert fire for his preferred choice, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
The former theory is regarded as more plausible than the latter. But the latter still has its believers. Stephen Schlesinger, a fellow at the Century Foundation, pushed the theory in a blog post published on The Huffington Post on Tuesday arguing that former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod admitted that Rice was never considered during a recent interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
It is possible that Axelrod saw his remarks as a way to protect the president from any lingering criticism over his handling of the Rice issue. There had, after all, been some undercurrent of discontent among women's groups who were upset over Rice's public humiliation. Also, the very visible scuttling of Rice did suggest to many observers that, despite Obama's reelection, Obama was once again showing how he caves into Republicans under a barrage of partisan attacks.
But Axelrod never actually said that Obama didn't consider Rice for Foggy Bottom; in fact, in interviews during the process and as recently as today, he has said that Rice was very much in the mix. As he recounts, Obama surveyed a number of possible candidates, including Rice. He never came to a decision on who to appoint until he ultimately chose Kerry. The attacks on the U.N. ambassador over her role in disseminating talking points about the consulate attack in Benghazi factored into the administration's thinking. But they weren't disqualifying. If anything, Axelrod said, they made the president more sympathetic towards choosing her.
"There is a myth that has grown up that the president was run off from choosing her," Axelrod told The Huffington Post Tuesday. "That just wasn't true. She was highly regarded and considered for the post."
"So far as my conversations with him and everything I know, he had never made a decision on that particular appointment and it is a misstatement of history to suggest he had chosen her or never considered her," he added. "Kerry always was a strong candidate for that position."