Let me share with you some of what I learned about Susan Rice from our years working together, six days a week, usually 14-plus hours each day. As someone who has worked in the private sector overseas for 15 years since leaving Washington, I still find that Susan has one of the sharpest and most focused approaches to learning that I have encountered. She voraciously consumes data and information from a wide range of sources and compartmentalizes all internally for ready use. The thought of Susan mindlessly parroting party talking points is laughable.
To further her understanding of an issue, Susan regularly engaged people who knew far more about an issue than she, and then listened "aggressively" to what they had to say on a subject. She probed and pushed for more information and woe be the person whose views were not well supported. Intelligence analysts, U.S. ambassadors, academics, NGO officials, African leaders, Congressional staffers (Democrat and Republican) and more were regularly invited through her door for such discussions with the aim of grasping the complexities of an issue. Susan's insatiable hunger for knowledge was often quite refreshing within a milieu of occasional self-satisfied know-it-alls and "experts" with a sometimes flaccid grasp of reality.
Susan used this information to build alliances and consensus, and ultimately drive U.S. policy relentlessly forward. Yet, like an effective battlefield commander, she constantly sought out new information and would adjust her efforts to achieve the agreed objectives. Strategy and tactics; Susan understood the difference and applied her learning.
Her deep respect for the U.S. intelligence and military communities, as well as the interagency process, was clear to all. The same stood true for her engagement with the State Department which she worked tirelessly to integrate into a comprehensive and forward looking policy approach to the continent, for she understood with innate clarity that diplomacy was but one arrow in the American quiver. Her tenure at the United Nations has shown that she is ready to lead, ready to drive the current Administration forward on critical global issues.
Many news stories about Susan refer to the impact of the 1994 Rwandan genocide on her views of human rights. Before we worked together, Susan and I were among a handful of people who accompanied Dr. Lake to that poor, rural central African nation where the ferocity of evil and slaughter of innocents eclipsed the pace of murder, albeit not the volume, achieved by the Third Reich; nearly one million killed in three months - and mostly by hand, with machetes. If you dare enter the darkness, imagine the scene that we encountered of a church and adjoining school, a deafening and eerie silence, an ocean of clothing, rotting flesh and exposed bones of more than 10,000 fellow humans. The images and smells haunt me to this day and I regularly pray for the souls of this horrific carnage.
Did the Rwandan genocide and policy failures of the Clinton administration impact Susan? How could they not! Do those experiences add to the depth and complexity of her understanding of the world - and make Susan better prepared for future challenges? Without hesitation I can say “Most certainly”.
Does the quality of her character and totality of her life experience prepare her well for the challenges of being Secretary of State? As a conservative Republican who has had the honor to work with her, my answer is a simple and emphatic "Yes". Yet sadly, the nation will not have the opportunity to witness this tremendous servant in action as our top diplomat.
McCormick worked at the National Security Council from 1995-1997 and currently lives in London. He is involved in the extractive industries sector across Africa and Latin America.