“I think it’s absolutely a shame for this young lady, whose roots are deep in South Carolina soil, to get sullied like this by my senior senator,” Clyburn said on MSNBC in reference to Graham.
Clyburn and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have suggested that some criticisms of Rice have racial overtones. Others, including conservative pundit Kathleen Parker, have suggested that sexism is at play, arguing that hot-tempered men in diplomatic and political life haven’t undergone the scrutiny that Rice has.
“People who talk about her temperament haven’t been in meetings with (the late) Larry Eagleburger and Richard Holbrooke,” said former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who replaced Rice on the National Security Council when she shifted to the State Department. “Those who think she’s tough haven’t been in meetings with other secretaries of state. She’s bright, very tenacious, very skilled, and has as much experience as anybody in the foreign policy establishment.”
Still, some who’ve dealt with Rice in the past say that she’s left them feeling cool toward her.
“She always seems to be thinking, ‘Which path will get me to state? Is it this one or that one?’” said one Democratic member of the House of Representatives, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about a fellow Democrat.. “She would do whatever it took to get there.”
Luck, the former diplomat at the University of San Diego, said he initially worried when Rice was appointed to the United Nations, a body where diplomacy often moves at a snail’s pace.
“I didn’t know if it was a good fit – I wasn’t sure she had the patience for the U.N., which can be a trying place to build consensus,” he said. “She had more diplomatic skill than people expected and turned out to be an articulate spokesperson for the U.S.”