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Joe Biden's Potential Running Mate: Who Is Susan Rice?


Former Vice President Joe Biden is believed to be getting close to naming his running mate in this year's presidential election. One of those on Biden's shortlist for the job is Susan Rice. She has deep experience as an ambassador and in national security but none as a candidate. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Susan Rice has a ready answer when asked about the possibility of being Joe Biden's pick for vice president.


SUSAN RICE: Whether I'm his running mate or I'm a door-knocker, I don't mind.

GONYEA: This was on NBC's "Meet The Press."


RICE: And I'm going to do everything I can to help get Joe Biden elected and to help him succeed as president.

GONYEA: Her resume is deep - Rhodes scholar, State Department, ambassador to the U.N., Obama's national security adviser. Rice's vice presidential prospects gain strength as calls for Biden to name an African American woman grew during this summer's Black Lives Matter protests. And she's known to be tough. This is from an appearance on NPR last fall.


RICE: My dad had a mantra that comes from his experience growing up in the segregated South in the '20s and '30s and serving in segregated Air Force at Tuskegee during World War II. He always told me and my brother, don't take crap off of anybody.

GONYEA: Of all the potential Biden running mates, none can match Rice on foreign policy. But to many, her inclusion on the shortlist is curious because that skillset duplicates Biden's own strength. He has deep foreign policy experience from his decades in the Senate. There is one big gap in Rice's resume. She has never held elective office, never been a candidate. Veteran Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle says in 2020, that particular shortcoming may not matter at all, given how campaigning has changed under the pandemic - no rousing public speeches, no handshakes at the local diner.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE: That's not happening anymore, and so that skill is not as valuable as it was, say, four years ago.

GONYEA: The pandemic also complicates the vetting process. Those one-on-one get-acquainted meetings between Biden and potential nominees will certainly be different. But Biden already knows Rice well, including from hours and hours together in the Oval Office during the Obama years.

SOLIS DOYLE: If there's one person that knows that Susan Rice has been in the room and can handle the pressure, it's Joe Biden. Joe Biden has seen it firsthand.

GONYEA: One certain line of attack Republicans will use against Rice if she's on the ticket is Benghazi. That's the 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. That was later shown to be incorrect. All these years later, it remains a rallying cry for Republicans. In fact, here's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just this month talking about Rice and Benghazi on Fox News.


MIKE POMPEO: She went out and made up a story about a video and a protest when she knew full well that this was a terror attack.

GONYEA: In the end, multiple GOP-led congressional inquiries into Benghazi uncovered no wrongdoing by the Obama administration. Susan Rice, meanwhile, is looking ahead. Early this year she was on a panel and cautioned that if Democrats retake the White House, they'll need to respect institutions and show respect to their opponents.


RICE: There will be those who question why a new administration of the opposite party ought to play by rules that the other team doesn't. And I think we've got to be very clear and very committed to resisting that temptation.

GONYEA: It is a pragmatic stance that rankles some progressives, but it is also an approach to governing that Joe Biden has embraced. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "NO STRESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.