Had it not been for the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s ill-fated and inaccurate speech at the United Nations regarding Iraq having nuclear weapons the United States may have never been convinced to authorize force be used in Iraq. After that point, any hopes he may have ever had of winning the Republican nomination for president of the United States were over. With his political departure went the last great hope of any African American of ever gaining the grand ol’ party’s universal support for a run at the White House. Or has it?
Condoleezza Rice, who replaced Powell as Secretary of State after serving as National Security Adviser has an impressive resume that measures up favorably against the credentials of many of the Republican presidential and vice presidential hopefuls who have been paraded before the conservative voting block over the past four elections. Rice is on the record as being for education reform, and is for same sex civil unions but not gay marriage. While she considers herself a Libertarian, some consider her a moderate. Some conservatives would second that because of her relative left-leaning approach to some domestic issues. But whoa nelly!, when it comes to bringing the full extent of U.S. firepower to the doorstep of America’s enemies there’s no candidate on the GOP radar screen quite like Condoleezza Rice.
Like many of us, Rice grew up during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear annihilation was real and palpable. She would attend Denver University where her interest in diplomacy was sparked by international politics professor Josef Korbel, father of future secretary of state Madeline Albright. Rice’s being influenced by Korbel is one of those signature moments in life. Had she not met Korbel, who knows? In the late 70s, President Jimmy Carter’s presidency was floundering and so was the world’s image of the United States. The Iran hostages were held in captivity for 444 days, the Soviet’s caught the world off guard when they invaded Afghanistan in 1980, and the OPEC cartel’s influence at the gas pumps was killing the American economy. These socio-economic circumstances were key in helping shape Ms. Rice’s world view. She vehemently disagreed with the Carter administration’s policies. Her father, who became a Republican because Democrats weren’t registering blacks in the 1950s, helped a young Condoleezza chose her eventual political affiliation. After being a Democrat all of her adult life, Rice switched to the Republican Party in 1982.
Almost from the moment she entered it Condi became active in the Republican Party and was widely recognized as the smartest person in the room more often than not. Rice would later be reared under the wings of the very best examples of diplomacy her party could offer. Rice worked directly under former Secretary of State George Schultz (served under Reagan), Secretary of State James Baker (served under George H.W. Bush) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Each of these men are proponents of the use of American military might to advance the country’s interests overseas. Said Schultz “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table” when describing why he would not enter in talks with then socialist dictator Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 80s. George Schultz is also an advocate of “preventive war”, as is Rice. It is clear that Rice’s presidential candidacy would highlight her real world experience practicing international politics as the National Security Adviser , where she earned the nickname “Warrior Princess”, and Secretary of State under George W. Bush.
A Republican candidate with ties to her party’s last three presidential administrations would normally have a bit of a leg up on competition from within that party, as well as any other. However, many of the causes she championed during her time under President George W. Bush were controversial at best, considered colossal failures at worst. Her policy of Transformational Democracy, a policy in which alliances and negotiations are driven by the real threat of military power, is a primary reason why the United States became engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any opposing candidate will be certain to go for the jugular during a debate. With the rabid nature of modern day politics, and the rippling effect of political blogs and talk radio, Rice’s past sins are certain to come back to haunt her in the form of snarky commentary and Hollywood-style attack ads replaying her infamous quotes regarding Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs and the soon dispelled notion that Iraq was seeking yellow cake uranium from Niger.
Though I feel that Condi Rice’s resume is robust, her ties to the Bush administration are just too much to overcome for a presidential candidate. The voting public will certainly recall Condi’s connection to George W. and his policies in 2016. The Republican Party is dominated by white males and are seen as being hostile towards minorities, women and the poor. This is not lost on the party leaders and strategists. A Rice candidacy would temporarily peak the interests of minority and women voters across the board in much the same way that former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s initial appointment broadened the conversation on high-ranking minorities in the Republican party. Though Rice is celebrated among the party’s elite, her stance on abortion and gender may not go over well in some red states. But she could make up for that by taking battleground states in much the same way as Obama. She might even steal a few blue states as well. Folly you say? If President Obama, black man, can win a few red states then there is nothing to say Rice cannot win a few blue states, race and gender aside. Any belief in the contrary is to say that conservatives who voted for Obama are less racist than liberals who might vote for Rice. Racism knows no party affiliation.
For Republicans, Rice is the perfect opponent to Hilary Clinton. The party couldn’t have come up with a better one in their dreams. But Clinton’s experience is a two-headed monster in that she has plenty of domestic experience from her two terms as a U.S. Senator representing New York, and she was in the unique position of viewing the presidency up close as a former First Lady. That’s all fine for the adult in you, but the kid in you needs that foreign policy frosting. Hilary has you covered there as well having served as Secretary of State under Obama.
Every election year Democrats are dragged onto the carpet by their Republican counterparts and accused of projecting weakness to the United States’ enemies and allies. Clinton is not going to have that problem. She initially supported George W. Bush’s foreign policy decisions and was a catalyst for U.S. intervention in Libya during the Arab Spring of 2012. A very formidable opponent? Understatement of the century! Clinton’s foreign policy strategy is described as ‘Smart Power’. It is a policy that highlights the use or threat of military power in conjunction with alliances, partnerships and institutions on all levels to broaden American influence and legitimize American action, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A hawk by any other name is still a hawk.
Though Condoleezza Rice is on record multiple times as saying she has no interest in running for political office an excerpt from her RNC speech has many insiders speculating to the contrary.
“And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America,” she said. “Her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be President of the United States. And she becomes the Secretary of State.”
These speeches aren’t spur of the moment brevity but rather finely selected prose designed to inspire the party faithful…and the Condi faithful as well.
But suppose Condoleezza Rice defeats Hilary Rodham Clinton in a presidential election in 2016, what would we be able to look forward to from her presidency? Well, they say the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Though we’re at the dawn of a second term for Obama there are some problems that will likely only become worse before they get better and are certain to outlast Barack Obama’s presidency. Primary among the international issues are Israeli-Palestinian relations, America’s dependency on foreign oil, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the rapid military and economic expansion of China. During her time as Secretary of State Rice as gone on record of being cautious in dealing with China, pro-big oil, tough when dealing with Iran and pro-Israeli when dealing with the Gaza strip. Just in case you’re slow to the trigger, there’s a reason you get nicknamed “Warrior Princess”. But it is easy how to see how Condi’s lack of experience with domestic issues outside of education would be a major weakness. Any foray into the White House by Rice would likely be as vice president initially.
While Mitt Romney was vetting VP candidates during the 2012 presidential election his wife Ann Romney reportedly urged Mitt to chose Rice as his running mate, but to no avail. Mitt’s stance on abortion clashed with Condoleezza’s more moderate stance. But that didn’t stop prominent female conservatives from wanting Rice on the ticket. In July, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin went on record as saying she felt Rice would make a “wonderful” vice president and went on to state that she had more experience than Obama did prior to being elected president in 2008. Perhaps these ladies are on to something after all. But what conservative candidate would be big enough to wow the Republican base, cover up for the domestic deficiencies inherent in Rice’s resume and be charismatic enough to shine on his or her own? The name that comes to mind is New Jersey governor Chris Christie. In a party that sometimes seems devoid of personality Christie straight-forward mannerisms, and perceived wise guy toughness, and policies of fiscal austerity play well with rural conservatives and city-slickering moderate Republicans as well. Four years may seem like it is far off in the distance, but it gets closer with every ticking second of the clock. Republicans need a big time presidential win to solidify the future of the conservative movement in the United States after losing two-presidential elections and the increasingly sour taste being left in the mouth of the voting public by the Tea Party movement. The Republicans are aware of the potential of a Rice win, and the dooming effects another loss would have on the party. A lot of money is currently being spent to make sure that their man or woman is the next president. I’d bet my money that much of that money is on Rice.