August 29th, 2008
04:40 PM ET

Calling Condi Rice

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Marcus Mabry
Author, 'Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power'

If polls are right, thousands, perhaps millions, watched John McCain introduce Sarah Palin to the American people and thought, “What about Condi?”

There is no evidence that Condoleezza Rice was ever on Sen. McCain’s short list for vice president. As George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, she would have brought, uh, liabilities, to say the least — in particular, the administration’s troubled foreign policy record.

But it’s unlikely Sen. McCain would have won voters who strongly opposed to the war in Iraq anyway. And, more importantly, polls have shown repeatedly, for years, that the American people never blamed Rice for the mistakes made in Iraq; they blame President Bush, Vice President Cheney and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Any presidential nominee takes a risk when he picks a running mate who brings different, even opposite, qualities than his own to the ticket.

As Sen. McCain introduced Gov. Palin, 44, at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, he couldn’t help but emphasize, for instance, that he turned 72 on the same day. Just Barack Obama’s choosing Joe Biden underlined Sen. Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience, Sen. McCain picking Gov. Palin underscored his lack of youth and, some might say, vigor.

But it was also a mammoth risk. If McCain wins, he will be the oldest person ever inaugurated as president. He has chosen as his number two a governor who has been in office less than two years. Two years ago, she was the mayor of a town of 9,000 people. In January, she would be a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States of America — a 72-year-old heartbeat.

Rice, objectively speaking, would be qualified to be president tomorrow.

Sen. McCain said he chose Gov. Palin because she has executive experience. Secretary Rice ran Stanford University as provost (the chief financial and academic officer of the university) for six years. She balanced a budget that was tens of millions of dollars in deficit when she took office.
One could argue that corralling the professors and students at Stanford — the professors have lifetime tenure and can’t be fired; the students are only there for four years and think the place is made for them — is one of the toughest executive jobs in the country.
McCain said Palin is a maverick; she exposed Republican corruption in Alaska. Rice is an African American Republican! She lived through the darkest days of segregation and Jim Crow and left the Democratic as a young specialist on the Soviet Union to became a Republican because she agreed with Ronald Reagan. Now, that’s maverick.

While Palin was competing in beauty pageants, Rice was impressing Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush’s future national security advisor, with her grasp of the military contest with the Soviet Union.

Rice has looked presidential since she became Secretary of State in 2005 and traveled around the world. Just google photos of her or go to the State department website.

Whatever one thinks of the president she works for, she is tested. There is nothing like an American presidential rate; Gov. Palin has never seen the kind of intensity she is about the live through. The greatest risk of choosing a running mate who has never even been on the national stage is that you could end up with Dan Quayle, who was a gaffe machine.

The selection of Gov. Pailin says a lot of things. First, with the Democrats making history last night, it says that the Republicans felt the need to make their own bid to make history too.
It says the McCain campaign has decided that this is a “change” election, where experience will not necessarily carry the day.

But mostly, the selection of Gov. Palin says that for all the discussion in the media and the pundocracy about Sen. Obama’s need to rally Democrats who supported Hillary Clinton, Sen. McCain needed to shore up his own conservative base just as desperately.

Gov. Palin is pro-life and had a child, reportedly, had a child she knew would be born with Downs syndrome, even though, assumedly, she learned that information early enough to terminate the pregnancy.

Conservative political leader Ralph Reed told The New York Times social conservatives were “ecstatic” about the pick.

Rice is just as fervently religious as Palin — her father was a preacher and she lived, literally, in a church (their apartment was behind the pulpit) until she was two. Religious right leaders have said they would support her.

But Rice is also a moderate on social issues. Her best friend is a gay man. She supports gay rights, though not same-sex marriage. She supports affirmative action.

It is worth noting she is also pro-gun rights, an “absolutist” as she put it on the Second Amendment.

While Obama ended his speech last night reaching out to moderates and independents, saying that even though Americans might disagree on abortion, same-sex marriage or gun control, certainly there was reasonable middle ground we could find.

A Rice pick would have been the same kind of reaching out on Sen. McCain’s part.
Though Rice has been hyper-loyal to George Bush, one of the last aides to him that has been, actually, she Rice is a Arnold Schwarzenegger-style Republican.

She is also an Alabaman (from the South, the Republican heartland) who came of age in Colorado (the mountain West, a swing region this year) and has lived most of her adult life in California (a Democratic stronghold).

Some will say Rice said she didn’t want to be vice president. But Rice had also said she didn’t want to be national security adviser or secretary of state either.

Filed under: Condoleezza Rice • Raw Politics
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