Politics is a high stakes game of chess played between rich men, typically on the backs of poor men, where sometimes even rich men have to sacrifice a queen. When Republicans decided to threaten a block against the confirmation of Susan Rice as Secretary of State, that's exactly what happened. A lateral move from the president’s first pick for the job, the State Department is getting no slouch with the easy confirmation of Massachusetts senior senator, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (D-MA. However, the move not only opens up a possibility that a Republican could pick up a seat that's been held tightly by Kerry for 28 years, but it threatens to weaken an already troubled Harry Reid (D-NV) senate.
There are effectively two avenues by which one party can keep the other party's nominations from being confirmed: They can obliterate the character of a questionable nominee, such as happened in the case of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Such a move ends any hope they have for a further career in politics, leaving them in the horrific position of earning millions working for the newstainment industry, speaking-for-dollars on the international circuit, or writing a juicy tell-all for 10 million dollars that sells no more than about 90 copies.
The other option for blocking a nomination, typically preferred in cases where the nominee has a good track record and a lot of good friends, is a senate block. This is a parliamentary procedure by which key senators can block a motion from coming to the senate floor pending further investigation of key matters related to the motion.
For example, let's say the nominee was in a position to exert cursory influence on the president or his advisers on a high profile case involving the murder of a U.S. ambassador. This results in genetically questionable, single-minded, gun-toting local yokels that can't seem to see any further than two feet in front of their faces, marching on their government in pursuit of “the truth about Benghazi”. (Code for “anything short of the president saying 'I'm a lily-livered coward that gleefully dines on the corpses of dead American soldiers' IS A LIE!”)
Throw in a high-powered senator, (Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a woman to keep the argument from turning into a gender debacle (Kelly Ayotte (R- NH), and a wounded war vet who overuses his time as a prisoner of war in order to put a public face on perceived presidential cowardice (John McCain (R-AZ), and you've got the perfect recipe for a senate hold. (You can't make this stuff up).
Democrats and Susan Rice sacked when they had the chance to sac up and should have played their queen. Hillary Clinton has vowed to serve until her replacement has been confirmed. While the president should absolutely honor her wishes to get to work on her 2016 presidential campaign from which she jests she's immune, the Clintons are duty-driven citizens. She can wait for the next Senate recess. In 1992, President H.W. Bush appointed Lawrence Eagleburger as Secretary of State during a senate recess. President Obama could have done the same. That would have forced a straight up or down vote by the senate upon their return by the end of the next senate session, giving ample time for the “investigation” on Benghazi, and moving American diplomacy forward without sacrificing a rook (John Kerry) which only serves to weaken an already weak Senate.
Principle - driven politics is one thing. But when you are fighting an opponent whose only rule is “win,” sometimes, you have to grab your brass knuckles and take a swing. The choice to allow Susan Rice to step out of the nomination and to insert John Kerry weakens the United States Senate and in the final analysis leaves one question: When are the Democrats going to grow a set?