Having read this story, I assume that in defying “the White House” on Egypt policy, John Kerry isn’t just defying Susan Rice. He is also defying the president of the United States, a.k.a. John Kerry’s boss. There certainly isn’t anything in the Daily Beast story indicating that the president backs Kerry on his dispute with Rice, so I have to think, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that Barack Obama is siding with his national security adviser in the spat. And I have to think that Susan Rice’s instructions to Kerry were given only upon securing the president’s approval for the delivery of those instructions.
Now look, I’m certainly not a fan of Susan Rice. But that’s not the issue here. The issue is whether John Kerry can blithely disregard instructions the president’s national security adviser gives him–instructions that presumably come from the president himself. And unless Kerry can show that the president did not back those instructions, the answer to that question has to be “no, he can’t.” To be sure, President Obama needs to do some housecleaning amongst the members of his foreign policy team if these splits and spats continue to play out in public, and the fact that he has failed to do so represents (yet another) failure of leadership on the president’s part. But John Kerry needs to play ball with his president when Barack Obama decides on a particular course of action and when he deputizes Susan Rice to inform Kerry what that course of action is. And if Kerry cannot do that, he needs to hand in his resignation.