Some people I know were less-than-thrilled to hear that Susan Rice would be heading to New York as our UN Ambassador since they would have rather seen her take a post in DC where she could help ensure that the Gates/Jones/Clinton “team of rivals” doesn’t manage to lock out all of the younger longtime Obama supporters from midcareer posts in the national security bureaucracy. But at the same time, folks I know who work on UN issues were thrilled for what amounts to the same reason — Rice has a longstanding relationship with the President-Elect and sending a close adviser to Turtle Bay signals an intention to upgrade the priority given to that suite of issues. It also makes it much more likely that our UN Ambassador will be able to get the White House’s attention than was the case in the Bush years.
Today’s New York Times mini-profile on Rice indicates that Obama intends to formalize this hoped-up elevation of the priority of UN issues by restoring the UN Ambassador post to its “cabinet rank” status. Since no modern president actually governs via cabinet meetings, the practical upshot of these “rank” decisions isn’t huge, but it’s an important tool presidents use to signal their priorities and I think it’s certainly a step in the right direction.