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Decision will serve greater interests

On Thursday I asked that President Obama no longer consider me for the job of secretary of state. I made this decision because it is the right step for this country I love.

I have never shied away from a fight for a cause I believe in. But, as it became clear that my potential nomination would spark an enduring partisan battle, I concluded that it would be wrong to allow this debate to continue distracting from urgent national priorities. These are the issues that deserve our focus, not a controversy about me.

On Sept. 16, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was unavailable, the White House asked me to appear on five Sunday talk shows to discuss a range of foreign policy issues.

When discussing the Benghazi, Libya, attack, I relied on fully cleared, unclassified points provided by the intelligence community, which encapsulated their best current assessment. These unclassified points were consistent with the classified assessments I received as a senior policymaker. I made clear in each interview that the information I was providing was preliminary and that ongoing investigations would give us definitive answers.

I have never sought to mislead the American people. To do so would run counter to my character and my life of public service. But new lines of attack have been raised to malign my character and my career.

A national security appointment, much less a potential one, should never be turned into a political football. There are far bigger issues at stake. So I concluded this distraction has to stop. This was the right call, for four reasons.

First, my commitment to public service is rooted in the belief that our nation’s interests must be put ahead of individual ones. I’ve devoted my life to serving the United States and trying to mend our imperfect world. That’s where I want to focus my efforts.

Second, I deeply respect Congress’s role in our system of government. After the despicable terrorist attacks that took the lives of four colleagues in Benghazi, our government must work through serious questions and bring the perpetrators to justice. We must strengthen security at our diplomatic posts and improve our intelligence in a volatile Mideast.

Accomplishing these goals is far more important than political fights or personal attacks.

Third, the American people expect us to come together to keep our nation safe. America is seriously weakened when politics come first. If any good can come out of the experience of the past few months, I hope that it will be a renewed focus on the business of the American people – and a renewed insistence that the process of selecting potential candidates for high national security office be treated in the best bipartisan traditions of our country.

Finally, I have a great job. It’s been my highest honor to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. I’m proud of the many successes of my tremendous team at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations: saving countless civilians from slaughter in Libya, imposing the toughest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea, steadfastly defending Israel’s security and legitimacy, and helping midwife the birth of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. These efforts remind us that we can do so much more when we come together than when we let ourselves be split apart.

That’s a lesson I will carry with me as I continue the work of the American people at the United Nations.

Susan Rice is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She wrote this for the Washington Post.

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