TODAY | December 14, 2012
>>> remaining a key member of his administration after rice took herself out of the running to be secretary of state once hillary clinton leaves office. andrea mitchell is nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent. good morning to you.
>> good morning, savannah. susan rice wrote in today's "pennsylvan " washington post " she made the decision because it was clearly the right one, but it was messy and painful with political fallout yet to come for everybody involved. more than a foreign policy adviser. she was part of the obama campaign team. in politics, that's family. that added to the drama of her decision to bow out. she talks exclusively with brian williams of rock center.
>> i withdrew my name because i think it's the right thing for the country and i think it's the right thing for the president.
>> thursday night, the president seemed ready to move on, telling nbc affiliate kcra.
>> i hadn't made a decision about who would be my next secretary of state. there's no doubt that susan was qualified. there are other people that are qualify qualified as well.
>> reporter: waiting in the wings , senate foreign relations chairman john kerry , son of a diplomat and seemingly born to the job, which white house officials say will be his. rice was the early front-runner to replace hillary clinton . on the hill republicans vowed to fight her confirmation.
>> i didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country.
>> reporter: it all went off the tracks over benghazi when days after the attack on the 9/11 anniversary, critics say rice downplayed al qaeda 's role during appearances on "meet the press" and four other sunday talk shows .
>> what happened in benghazi was initially a spontaneous reaction to what just tran transpired hours ago in cairo.
>> we will do whatever is necessary to block the nomination that's within our power as far as susan rice is concerned.
>> reporter: the president called that criticism outrageous.
>> if senator mccain and senator graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me.
>> reporter: while mr. obama signaled strong support some advisers were telling him the political price of a confirmation battle would be too high.
>> what happened here? were you set up? were you a victim of circumstance? bad data, bad information?
>> i'm not a victim. i wasn't set up.
>> are you blameless in all this?
>> i don't think anybody is ever wholly blameless, but i didn't do anything wrong. i didn't mislead. i didn't misrepresent.
>> did you want the job?
>> i would have been very honored to serve in that job, just as i'm delighted to do what i'm doing. but, yeah, sure. how could you not want to, in my field, serve at the highest possible level?
>> susan rice will be at the white house to see the president this afternoon and she'll stay on at the u.n. even as some top women in the administration are complaining privately that the president did not fight hard enough