Condi talk, &c.

Condoleezza Rice


There has been some Condi talk — Condi-as-veep talk — and I will add a few words. More talk, that is! I understand the enthusiasm for her; I also understand the opposition.

Last year, I heard her give a speech in Prague, during a Reagan centennial celebration. It was a boffo speech — a defense of democracy promotion, basically, against its various attackers. The Q&A was just as good: Rice was crisp, factual, strong, interesting. I thought, “You know, she’d be good on the stump.”

The first time I heard her give a speech was at the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia. That too was boffo. I remember one line in particular. She was glad, she said, to belong to a party that “sees me as an individual, not as part of a group.”

She was national security adviser in the first W. administration, and then secretary of state during his second. I had very much looked forward to her tenure as secretary of state. But it did not set the world on fire, did it? (Maybe the point of foreign policy is not to set the world on fire.) The “freedom agenda” seemed to sag badly.

Okay, flash-forward to a few weeks ago. I was at dinner in Houston with about ten politicos. Actually, there was one non-politico at the dinner. The question arose, “Who ought to be the GOP vice-presidential nominee this year?” We gave the expected answers, and the expected arguments: Rubio, Portman, Ryan, Christie, and so on.

The non-politico said, “Rice.” She said it somewhat sheepishly. We all pounced on her immediately, saying, “No chance.”

But why had she named Condi? She had attended the recent Romney gathering in Utah, with her politico fiancé. Rice was a speaker. By all accounts, she absolutely killed. (For the benefit of the unslangy, “killed,” these days, means “wowed the audience.”) Maybe the one non-politico at the dinner in Houston knew more than — or at least as much as — the rest of us?

The liabilities of Rice as veep nominee need not be rehearsed here. But I will comment on one of those liabilities. In the press over the last week or so, she has been described as “mildly pro-choice.” Actually, that is her self-description. I first heard her use it in an interview with me in 1999. At the time, she was a veteran of Bush 41’s foreign-policy shop and an adviser to the Texas governor, W.

Would a “mildly pro-choice” official who put a dent in abortion be better than a pro-life official who did nothing? Sure — but that is “a whole ’nother issue,” to be taken up another day, perhaps.

My main point, for now: I can understand the enthusiasm for Condi, even as others are bewildered. To hear her speak is to be pretty impressed. And to ask, “Why not?”

We all know that, in January 2009, Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the oath — screwed up the oath for Obama. The big question is: Has he now screwed up his own oath?

I am full of advice for the Romney campaign, and we know how much free advice is worth. And yet — let me offer a memory from the 1980 Republican primaries. George Bush ran, as you remember. He would later be known as “President Bush,” and, still later, as “Bush 41.” But in the 1980 primaries, he lost to some washed-up actor. Can’t remember his name.

One thing Bush said was, “He’s had his chance.” He was referring to the incumbent president, Carter. “He’s had his chance. He’s had his chance to lead. He’s had his chance to get us out of these messes. He has failed. Let someone else have a chance.”