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Touting Her Experience, Susan Rice Makes Her Case For Biden's VP Slot

Former national security adviser Susan Rice, seen here at the Atlantic Festival in 2019, is on Joe Biden's vice presidential shortlist.
Nicholas Kamm
AFP via Getty Images
Former national security adviser Susan Rice, seen here at the Atlantic Festival in 2019, is on Joe Biden's vice presidential shortlist.

Former national security adviser Susan Rice told NPR she's "honored and humbled" to be on Joe Biden's shortlist for vice president and that her lengthy tenure in the executive branch would make her an effective No. 2.

"I think I could bring my experience of almost now 20 years in the senior levels of the executive branch to bear to help tackle the most pressing problems we face," she told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep in an interview that aired Tuesday.

"If there's an opportunity to serve again, I'm certainly eager to do so, but not because it's something that I want for myself," she added.

"I've been blessed to have served already at the highest levels. But if at a time when we are suffering domestically and internationally, people with skills and experience are asked to come back, my judgment is they should say yes, even if it may not be the best thing for them personally."

Rice, 55, is a veteran of the past two Democratic administrations, serving on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and as ambassador to the United Nations and subsequently national security adviser under former President Barack Obama.

Despite her extensive resume, Rice has never held or run for office herself, a concern she dismisses — especially this year.

"I've run for office on other people's behalf, where I did actually quite a bit of retail politics and speaking on the stump and speaking to groups of people," she told Inskeep. "But I think, unfortunately, in the current context with the pandemic, this will be quite an unusual campaign, where much of the outreach is done via television, via radio, via Zoom. And those are all media in which I, like many others, have considerable experience as well."

Rice said that the other candidates on Biden's shortlist "are very strong" and that all have their "relative strengths and weaknesses."

If she were on the ticket, Republicans would likely attack her on Benghazi, the location of a 2012 assault on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya that killed four Americans. When it happened, Rice went on TV and called the assault an act of spontaneous violence, which was later shown to be incorrect.

In the NPR interview, Rice suggested a Biden administration would need to push back against the division President Trump has sown while in office.

"One of the critical reasons why we are in such a difficult spot, whether with respect to the pandemic or economy, national cohesion, racial justice issues is because we are now burdened with leadership in the White House that thrives on dividing us and pitting Americans against each other," she said. "We absolutely have to move past that to a point of a recognition that we are all in this boat together, we sink or swim together."

Rice has personal experience relating to people who disagree fundamentally with her politics.

"I have a 23-year-old son whom I love dearly, whose politics are very, very different from my own and from the rest of our family," she explained. "My son and I will have some robust disagreements over some matters of policy, not all. And yet, at the end of the day, you know, I love him dearly and he loves me."

Rice said she believes, for her family and country, it comes down to finding areas of agreement and respecting people with differing political views.

"We agree, for example, on the importance of the United States playing a responsible, principled leadership role in the world," she said of her son. "We agree on the importance of having strong alliances. We agree we have to be cleareyed and strong in dealing with adversaries like Russia and the threat that China may pose. We disagree on things like choice. I'm pro-choice. He's pro-life. That's the kind of difference that we ought to be able to respect."

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Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.