If only Hillary Rodham Clinton had not been worn down after a week of flights and high-stakes diplomacy, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice might now be well on her way to being the next secretary of state.

In the immediate aftermath of the September attack that left four Americans — including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens — dead in Benghazi, Libya, it was Clinton who was supposed to go on the Sunday talk shows to explain what had happened and why.

Instead, that duty fell to Rice, and her words — that the attack was not a premeditated act of terror — started a tailspin for her candidacy to be the nation’s top diplomat. Last week, she removed herself from consideration.

Rice insisted that she could have been confirmed as secretary of state but that it would be “incredibly distracting and disruptive” for President Barack Obama at a critical time for his administration. For his part, Obama condemned the attacks on Rice as “unfair and misleading,” though he accepted her decision to take her name out of the mix.

Democratic allies of Rice insisted that she has emerged strengthened from this incident, noting that she sacrificed her ambition for the good of the administration and will certainly retain an influential role in policymaking in the coming months and years.

Absolutely. But at the start of September, Rice was at the front of the line to succeed Clinton as secretary of state, a job that would have been a career-capper for an accomplished diplomat. Now, that post will go to someone else.

Susan Rice, for watching your dream delayed, perhaps forever, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Chris Cillizza anchors The Fix, a politics blog for The Washington Post.

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