Madam Vice President Condoleezza Rice
In what way has Condoleezza Rice announced her candidacy to become John McCain’s vice president?
April 7, 2008
Africans and Europeans came here together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains,” Secretary Rice exclaimed in a front page interview with the Washington Times in late March 2008. And she continued: “That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it” [i.e., the race issue].
For those very clear words to be expressed by a Republican Administration’s top black official at the tail end over the controversy over the Rev. Wright’s racially incendiary remarks truly is a political event of considerable significance.
After all, black and white America alike had tried to wish the inflammatory remarks by Obama’s long-time Chicago pastor away. The history of slavery — and its economic and social legacy to this day — are so complex that far too many people even among the opinion leaders in the country prefer to keep it under the rug.
Senator Obama’s own speech on the issue was widely regarded as elegant, thoughtful, honest and compassionate. Furthermore, it showed that he can take real heat — and stay cool-headed and tough without engaging in the typical politician’s response, which is to engage in empty rhetorical flourishes of sweet nothings in a desperate attempt to make the issue forgotten.
Either way, most pundits were certain that Republican opposition researchers would use Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s remarks to attack Barack Obama in the general election campaign in the fall.
Condoleezza Rice’s very frank remarks change much of that common wisdom. After all, here is a high-ranking African American Republican essentially giving weight, and context, to what caused Rev. Wright to speak as he did on those (in)famous video tapes.
Coincidentally, lost in all the upheaval about the now-retired Chicago pastor’s remarks was the fact that his first name, appropriately enough, is Jeremiah.
As any Bible-reading American should know, he was the Hebrew prophet in the Old Testament who was known to be an outspoken preacher and whose “Lamentations of Jeremiah” describe the fall of Jerusalem and the ensuing exile in no uncertain and somber terms. In short, the man in most ways only lived up to his biblical promise.
For Condoleezza Rice to speak of a lingering “birth defect” of the United States provides the Obama campaign with quite an effective shield against charges that the racial thrust of his former pastor’s remarks is completely out of bounds.
Ms. Rice’s remarks were interpreted as a reflection of the fact that one of her childhood friends, Denise McNair, then 11 years old, was one of the victims in September 1963 when white supremacists bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Perhaps so. However, it is unlikely that’s all there is to this story. Condoleezza Rice always acts with utmost agility and astuteness in positioning herself for the next great job — whether it is to become Provost of Stanford University, National Security Advisor or Secretary of State.
Her ability to make the right moves to further her own career is all the more impressive considering she also left behind lots of questions about her managerial capabilities in each of the previous jobs.
It would therefore not be uncharacteristic for Ms. Rice to have made her very poignant remarks about race as an opening gambit in applying to become Senator McCain’s vice presidential candidate.
Sure enough, most of the conventional thinking is that he needs to select a younger conservative male to assuage his intra-party critics on the right.
Perhaps so. But Ms. Rice certainly knows that Mr. McCain has a penchant for doing the unconventional. On that front, there is always the choice of Senator Lieberman, a former Democrat from Connecticut.
The two of them on the ticket would hardly be unconventional. Against such a backdrop, Ms. Rice — in a classic truth and dare move — is presenting herself as a more attractive option.
In one person, she offers both of the factors that are credited to have greatly enhanced turnout for the Democrats in their primaries — featuring a black and a woman. In a nutshell, the logic is that the Republican Party would present itself as open-minded and dynamic if the septuagenarian senator added a black woman to his ticket.
The drawbacks of a McCain/Rice ticket are self-evident. In the eyes of the public, Ms. Rice is even more closely tied to George Bush’s failed Iraq policy than is Mr. McCain. She would not add economic expertise to the ticket — which may be critical at a time when more Americans are frightened about the economy than terrorist attacks.
But then again, doubling up on national security may just suit the Republican Party fine — and should certainly play to the conservative wing of the party.
Then, there is also the age/health issue for Senator McCain, should he be elected president. There are those who believe he is not healthy enough to serve out his first term.
If that is indeed a consideration, then Ms. Rice’s cards would improve — because, unlike a white governor from the south from her own age cohort, she could claim that she would represent continuity in terms of foreign policy experience.
In the end, nobody can know for sure what Mr. McCain’s choice will be. Many intangibles enter into that equation. However, his irreverent streak may come into play.
One thing is for sure, though. Whether the current Secretary of State’s motives for bringing up the race issue in unmistakably outspoken terms was mostly a mercenary act, as some would claim, or completely genuine, the fact that she did speak out helps in one crucial regard.
There is hope that the issue of blacks in America will no longer be “gentlemanly” swept under the rug, as has been the practice in the past two decades. Anybody who doubts how important that is just needs to visit parts of the U.S. capital — or better yet, downtown Baltimore, a formerly grand city just 35 miles away from Washington, D.C.
After decades of “white flight” to the suburbs, vast stretches of the downtown area look like a throwback to the desolation of black ghettos, 1980s Harlem-style. Anybody cruising those streets in broad daylight cannot escape noticing the urban blight.
Boarded up houses and police security cameras at every street corner would make any objective observer believe that the United States may be at the tail end of a 20-year long recession, but surely not a 20-year long boom.
In any case, it is a powerful — and vivid — visual testimony to the “birth defect” of the U.S. of A. which Condoleezza Rice addressed so forthrightly the other week.
It is a powerful — and vivid — visual testimony to the "birth defect" of the U.S. of A. which Condoleezza Rice addressed so forthrightly the other week.
The history of slavery — and its economic and social legacy to this day — are so complex that far too many people even among the opinion leaders in the country prefer to keep it under the rug.
The drawbacks of a McCain/Rice ticket are self-evident. In the eyes of the public, Ms. Rice is even more closely tied to George Bush's failed Iraq policy than is Mr. McCain.
It would not be uncharacteristic for Ms. Rice to have made her very poignant remarks about race as an opening gambit in applying to become Senator McCain's vice presidential candidate.
There is also the age/health issue for Senator McCain. If that is indeed a consideration, then Ms. Rice's cards would improve — because she could claim that she would represent continuity in terms of foreign policy experience.