The Stuff of 2012: Obama & The New Secretary of State

Kinda Nice Things That Happened in 2012 The re-election of President Barack Obama was a surprising in a nice way. With the presidential race being the gong show that it was, I think everybody was a little surprised, Republicans included, that he pulled it off a second time around. I had a feeling he would go whole hog in his campaign and start speaking more passionately about issues close to his heart.

Hearing a presidential candidate speaking about global warming, gay rights, and gender inequality in sound bites as though they were actually being considered as real issues was one thing, but hearing them delivered in a victory speech was something else. It was uplifting in a way that only a speech that sang the end of half a year of mud slinging can. It was as though the collective scraps of societal sanity exhaled a sigh of relief at 11:30pm, November 6th. My partner didn't want to believe that California and other Western states were locked for the electoral college, we didn't have cable and the live feeds were understandably jammed. We ran to the nearest pub with a television in time to see it called and the speech that lit up the blogosphere like the 4th of July.

The fact that I'm writing this from the comfy confines of Toronto is no small irony — but there's a definite reason. It goes without saying that as America goes, so goes the world, but that's especially true of Canada. Embarrassingly, Obama polls higher than our sitting Prime Minister. His trade and foreign policy decisions affect us every day in ways that we are slowly beginning to understand — and it doesn't take long these days to connect the dots.

A month later, however, we started coming back down to Earth. Just over a month after his re-election, he looked as though he was reneging on some of his promises before he could even be sworn in for his second term. Susan H. Rice, the current Ambassador to the UN, was placed on the shortlist for Secretary of State after Secretary Clinton's exit. A job everybody should take seriously — just ask Colin Powell (now, strangely, an Obama supporter).

She withdrew her name after Republican complaints about her role as administration spokeswoman in the fatal Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Senator John McCain pressed for her removal — and it's strange that he and I would ever agree on anything (not like he'd care — but still) but it's true, she was a poor choice.

Rice bowed out December 13th over apparently bungled talking-points circulated by the U.S. intelligence community. But as somebody who didn't have direct authority in a situation not commonly known to the majority of US voters — why would that matter? Sure news sources picked it up, and this is the sort of story the US House of Representatives will cling to before the State of the Union, but would the majority of Americans care? I'm not certain so I'll only say — maybe not.

It's odd that President Obama would have chosen Rice in the first place. An issue to which Obama gave considerable time in his last Rolling Stone interview before November 6th was, you guessed it: Oil and oil subsidies. That also happens to be a significant portion of Rice's financial portfolio, with holdings in reportedly more than a dozen companies related to Canadian crude — mostly from the tar sands. As Secretary of State, she would preside over decisions like the future of the partially constructed Keystone XL pipeline, which our own government has so generously dug to the border in hopes that our American friends will pick up the tab some time in the near future to complete the job. That's a conflict of interest of every I saw one, and in the most obvious way imaginable.

Woops. Even Fox News picked up the story in mid December, and suddenly, the heady dream was fading amidst heavy talks of debt ceilings and taking on another Republican Congressional majority. The thing is this time, for shame, both Republican pundits and Fox News were actually correct. Though I'm certain it was only for the occasion of Obama-shaming, not for reveling in useful facts.

So, the very sober decision to give former presidential candidate John Kerry the job was announced to little fanfare the Friday before Christmas on quite possibly the slowest news day of the year. And thank goodness. This doesn't seal the fate of any decision, but at least it's not being made by somebody that would directly profit from it.


You'll find the rest of our stuff of 2012 here.

Carolyn Tripp is an artist and writer based in Toronto who has written for numerous publications including Magenta Magazine, Spacing Magazine, Eye Weekly, C magazine, Mondo Magazine and several blogs and online publications. Updates on articles, essays, and visual projects can be found here.


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