The Corner

The Case Against Condi

I doubt Romney is seriously considering Rice, because it seems so obvious that she would be a disastrous pick. Just in case there are people who do not see this, let me run through some of the reasons.

1) Her selection would seriously offend many social conservatives — possibly enough to depress their turnout. In general, I think claims that conservatives will stay home in this election are overblown: Opposition to President Obama is running pretty hot. A vice-presidential nominee who is “mildly” in favor of letting a million unborn children be killed every year, though, would be one of the few things that would make this scenario plausible. Keep in mind, she would be the first pro-choicer on a Republican ticket since Roe v. Wade — unless she flipped and made herself look like a political hack just as the country was being introduced to her as a candidate.

2) Related: Her selection would require Romney to go back on his word. During the primaries, he committed to picking a pro-life vice president. (See the South Carolina forum held on September 5, 2011.)

3) Further related: Her selection would reinforce doubts conservatives already have about him.

4) He might get a convention fight. It only takes a majority of six states’ delegations to force a floor vote on an alternative vice-presidential nominee. Imagine what a mess that would be for Romney.

5) We have no idea where she stands on, or how much she knows about, or how comfortable she is discussing, a lot of issues. Where does she stand on same-sex marriage? If the press challenges her on the Ryan budget’s “draconian” cuts to Pell Grants, what would she say?

6) She has never run for anything. Yes, she has been in the public eye. Running for office, let alone the vice presidency, is a very different experience — one she may not be ready for.

7) Her foreign-policy views will draw opposition from some segments of the party without drawing enthusiastic support from any of them. I’m neither a Paulite nor a neoconservative on foreign policy — though I’m closer to the latter — so it doesn’t bother me that she too belongs to neither camp. As a supporter of the Iraq War who opposed the surge, though, she is in something of a political no man’s land in the Republican party.

8) We’d get to relitigate the foreign-policy decisions of the Bush years. Remember the “sixteen words” controversy, which led to Plame-gate? You will by the end of a campaign with her on the ticket.

9) Any attempts to distance Romney from the Bush years in general would instantly be undone.

10) Romney puts a great deal of stock in his experience as an executive and a manager. How good is Rice’s track record in this respect? My understanding — and I could be wrong — is that one of the main things a national-security adviser is supposed to do is manage the national-security apparatus of the executive branch so that it’s working as one. This is something that famously did not happen during Rice’s time at the NSA, when the Pentagon, State, and the CIA were working at cross purposes. (“Unity in the executive” was something the Bush administration believed in theory.)

11) Meanwhile, I don’t see the upside. Are there uncommitted voters who really miss the foreign policy of the Bush years? The notion that picking Rice will help Republicans make inroads against Obama with black voters is a pathetic fantasy.

Romney would be nuts to pick Rice. He’s not perfect, but he’s not nuts.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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