Depth of Republican Enthusiasm for Condi Rice Matched by Lack Thereof for Romney
Clearly Condoleezza Rice doesn’t waste time. When she appeared at a special behind-closed-doors luncheon at a Park City, Utah retreat for big money Republican Party donors it was for only 15 minutes. But apparently that was enough to bring down the house. One attendee later told the Washington Post she was the “the star of the show,” and another said that, if it was a vice presidential tryout, “she hit it out of the park.” An international banker from Boston was quoted as saying, “she rocked it.” Former ambassador to Iceland Charles Cobb said Rice was “spectacular” and described her as a “very bright, sophisticated, articulate lady.” According to CBS, “her remarks were widely praised by attendees. One called her brief address “electrifying,”
That might be considered an understatement. A couple from Los Angeles, attending the three-day gathering and “who did not want to be identified’ told the New York Times Rice’s message was one of “America needing to take charge.” “We can’t stand by and let things happen,” the wife said. “If we do, someone else will take that leadership role.”
They both described her address as an “impassioned plea” for the country to “stand up and take charge.”
There is something mysterious about all of this. It’s a little hard to imagine what one could say in 15 minutes that would evoke that kind of reaction described. Perhaps we will never know. If there is a transcript it has not been made public
Rice herself said later, "I talked about the need for American leadership, I talked about the importance of the United States to a more peaceful world, a world that has been quite turbulent in recent years, and needs a strong American anchor," she said.
"I also talked about the essence of America, and I think perhaps that is what people resonated with, that this is a country in which people really believe that it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going and that we really need to concentrate on rebuilding our strengths as a country of immigrants, a country where it doesn't really matter your zip code so that you can get a good education, and the need to really pay attention to those strengths so that we can lead from an internal strength at home," she added.
Two standing ovations for that?
Rice’s “reappearance on the scene, however fleeting, is unhelpful to Mitt Romney,” Carter Eskew wrote in the Washington Post last week. “The Bush administration is a reminder of one of the two main pillars of the Obama campaign: ‘We tried that; it didn’t work.’ Ms. Rice and I do agree on one thing: she said that she is not a very good politician.”
However, she did tout her own ability in the field of policy. But that’s not much of a plus either. She was, after all, an original and leading member of “The Vulcans,” a group that served as a foreign policy advisory team for George W. Bush when he was running for the Presidency. It included Richard Armitage, Robert Blackwill, Stephen Hadley, Richard Perle, Dov S. Zakheim, Robert Zoellick and Paul Wolfowitz, and Scooter Libby, all of whom secured top positions in the new administration, Rice as National Security advisor and later Secretary of State. All of them played key roles in launching the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
(Zakheim recently wrote a book: A Vulcan’s Tale: How the Bush Administration Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan.)
While we don’t know exactly what Rice said in the two private sessions that appeared to light the lights of the Republican honchos, what reports we have from the fleeting public appearances are consistent with the unilateralism and belittling of world public opinion that marked the Vulcans’ rise and characterized Rice’s stay at the White House and later at the State Department.
"The United States has to have a view, it has to gather people around that view, and frankly, I think we need to do more of that, and the last several years I think we've been lacking on that front," Rice told CBS. She said the U.S. should "make alliance" with those who want to see the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, evoking memory of the “coalition of the willing” she helped lead into Iraq.
“President Bush was willing, against a lot of criticism, to assert American leadership,” she said, adding: “I’m pretty certain I don't see that same level of willingness to assert this: That the United States is indeed exceptional, the United States isn’t just the lowest common denominator of what the [United Nations] Security Council can deliver.”
“The international system is a system,” she explained. “It has certain rules, power relationships, and people respond to those,” Rice told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “If the United States is not setting that agenda, then someone else will, and that might be a country that doesn’t believe in free markets and free peoples.”
A few days after reportedly bringing down the house in Park City, wrote Chris Moody of Yahoo News, Rice flew to Washington to headline a fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club, “a private hangout for Republicans” for ShePAC, a new super PAC that supports conservative female candidates. The appearance included “a private foreign policy briefing with sitting female lawmakers and Republican House and Senate candidates from across the country.” “While Rice spoke to the candidates on the third floor of the club, about 150 ShePAC supporters waited in a reception room downstairs, noshing on a spread of roast beef, glazed ham, sweet potato puffs and watermelon soup while bartenders poured glasses of whiskey, vodka and wine in the back," wrote Moody.
The backdrop and the drama must have been slightly surreal. Moody wrote: “Introduced as the 'smartest woman in the world,' Rice emerged from a side kitchen to address the group.”
We have no idea what she said in the upstairs meeting while the activist downstairs steeled themselves for her appearance which when it occurred lasted only 10 minutes. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Rice encouraged the mostly female crowd to keep fighting for America.” “It just has to be that the freest and most compassionate and most generous country on the face of the earth has to continue to be the most powerful,” she said.
“When she finished, Rice promptly exited through a side door without talking to reporters waiting nearby,” Moody reported. “As she walked toward a vehicle waiting in an alley, an aide said she would not be answering questions because she had a scheduled appearance on Fox News later that night and wanted any new comments to be exclusive to the network.”
On June 26, Rice went on "CBS This Morning” where she called for the U.S. to arm opposition fighters in Syria. There she took on the Obama over Syria, arguing that “regional players are already arming the Assad regime and the opposition in pursuit of their own agenda in the Middle Eastern nation.” She cited Iran and Russia as examples of countries arming the Assad regime but she might just as well been talking about Saudi Arabia and Turkey. She later said mysteriously the latter was beginning “to suffer from the instability.”
Rice has had fulsome praise for candidate Romney whom she says will bring “first and foremost an understanding” of “the role the U.S. in the world,” that he understands the “essence” of America, which she called “free markets and free people,” and would be a solid leader on the international stage.
"America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect, and we're going to do it again," she said. "We're going to strengthen ourselves, our democracy at home, we're going to strengthen our economy, we're going to do it with great leadership like the people in this room and like Governor Mitt Romney, who will be a terrific president."
On CBS, Rice contrasted the Obama Administration’s foreign policy with Romney’s “understanding of the role the United States has to play in the world.”
“We need a greater, more assertive America in the world,” Rice said. “The United States can’t lead from behind. The United States has to have a view, it has to gather people around that view, and frankly… the last several years I think we've been lacking on that front.”
"We really do need to have a view," said Rice. "It cannot be the lowest common denominator view of the international community through the Security Council of the U.N., and secondly this really counts on rebuilding our strengths at home, and so the state of our economy, continuing to borrow money that we cannot afford, entitlements, if we don't get a handle on who we are at home and fix our multiple problems at home then we will not lead."
"This is a truly consequential election. This is perhaps a turning point for the country. I'm very often asked to speak about the foreign policy aspects and there are some key important foreign policy issues before us," Rice said at one point. "There are many foreign policy issues on the agenda, but we are not going to address any of those international challenges unless we get it right at home. And it's not right at home right now, and the American people know it."
At each appearance Rice said emphatically that she is not a candidate for Romney’s running mate. “Not going to happen,” said, “I love policy, I don’t really love politics."
“But there are many ways to put together an administration so that you represent all of the challenges that the President of the United States will face and it doesn’t all have to be in the presidency and in the vice presidency.” Rice told Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren. “I am quite certain because I know him and I admire him and I trust his judgment. Governor Romney is going to find the right person for the number two place on the ticket. The most important thing is going to be that it’s somebody who is ready to serve should something, God forbid, happen to the president. That’s the most important characteristic of the vice president and I know he’s going to make a good choice but I know it won’t be me.”
Sounds to me like she’s running for something – secretary of state? -- or maybe national security advisor. In any case, it would be nice to know what she said in Utah to the GOP’s big money people that got them so excited.
Carl Bloice, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is a columnist for the Black Commentator. He also serves on its editorial board.