WASHINGTON - Defying his many critics, President Barack Obama named outspoken diplomat Susan Rice as his national security adviser Wednesday, giving her a larger voice in U.S. foreign policy despite accusations that she misled the nation in the aftermath of the deadly attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
The appointment, along with the nomination of human rights advocate Samantha Power to replace Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, signals a shift by Obama toward advisers who favor more robust American intervention overseas for humanitarian purposes. But it's unclear whether that philosophy will alter the president's policies in Syria, where he has resisted pressure to use U.S. military force to stem that country's civil war.
Rice's appointment provides a measure of redemption after the contentious Benghazi investigations forced her from consideration as Obama's second-term secretary of state. The president, who vigorously defended Rice from criticism at the time, lauded his close friend Wednesday as a "patriot who puts her country first."
President Barack Obama listens as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, his choice to be his next national security adviser, speaks at the White House on Wednesday. Samantha Power, his nominee to be the next U.N. Ambassador, is at left.
"Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human decency. But she's also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately," Obama said in a White House Rose Garden ceremony.
The 48-year-old Rice takes the influential national security post in the president's inner circle from Tom Donilon, who is stepping down in July after more than four years in the Obama White House. The president credited Donilon with having "shaped every single national security policy of my presidency," including the renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific region and the relationship with Russia.
Rice became entangled in the Benghazi case after asserting in television interviews that the September attack was probably spontaneous, a statement that was later proven false. While Rice said she was relying on talking points crafted by the administration, she became a target for Republicans accusing the White House of trying to cover up a terror attack during the presidential election.
But because Rice's new job does not require Senate confirmation, some of the lawmakers who doled out the most aggressive attacks appeared resigned to her promotion through the ranks of Obama's team.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of Rice's harshest critics, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that he disagreed with her appointment but would "make every effort" to work with her on important matters.