United Nations ambassador Susan Rice took one for the team today, formally withdrawing from consideration to be Secretary of State after weeks of unending attacks by a swarm of Republican Senators led by John McCain (R-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire).

The criticism of Ambassador Rice, based on what I can see, was completely unwarranted and unjustified. The statement she made after the Benghazi tragedy was based on what the intelligence services gave her to work with. Perhaps she can take some small comfort in knowing that this really had nothing to do with her. This was strictly about politics. Unable to turn the tragedy in Libya into electoral defeat for President Barack Obama last month, the Republicans went after Rice in part so they wouldn’t come away completely empty-handed; they wanted a scalp, and they got one.

But this is also about ensuring that Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) becomes the next Secretary of State, so that his Senate seat can be opened up for a special election, possibly helping Sen. Scott Brown (R) return after his decisive loss to incoming Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D).

As much as I respect and admire Sen. Kerry, a great public servant and true American hero, I almost hope the president picks someone else, just to demonstrate that these kinds of antics by McCain and his fellow travelers will not produce the results they want. It would be terribly unfair to Kerry, whose qualifications for the job are unquestionable, but then, what’s happened here has been terribly unfair to Susan Rice, too.

Wouldn’t McCain, Graham, Ayotte and every Republican in Washington be taken completely by surprise if President Obama nominated outgoing Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) as the next Secretary of State? It is hard to imagine Lugar wouldn’t be unanimously approved, and nobody in America is better qualified for the job. He also has a history of working together with President Obama, who spent a great deal of time as a Senator accompanying Lugar on overseas trips to help lock down loose nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union.

We’d get a terrific Secretary of State who would inevitably be confirmed with the support of both Republicans and Democrats; there would be no chance that the Republican tactics would be rewarded with the return Scott Brown to the Senate; and Obama would send a message to the Republicans that he cannot be played.

Well, it’s just a thought.