Condoleeza Rice still has national potential by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Condoleezza Rice was in Boston yesterday promoting her new family memoir, Extraordinary, Ordinary People. Often lampooned on Saturday Night Live, the former Secretary of State under George W. Bush is anything but a stick figure. She is charming, highly intelligent, thoughtful and articulate. And the lessons she has learned along the way help explain her positions on issues facing us still.

Rice grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before civil rights legislation started to peel away Jim Crow laws. Her parents taught her, “You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your response to those circumstances.” While away from home, her parents would make her wait until she could use the bathroom at home so she wouldn’t have to use “Coloreds Only” facilities. They wouldn’t allow her to drink from a “Coloreds Only” water fountain. Each of their rules was to preserve their dignity and pride. When the public accommodations laws were passed under President Lyndon Johnson, the Rices were among the first to go to newly integrated restaurants. It would still be two years before her parents were allowed to vote. And attitudinal changes toward blacks took longer still.

Our own history, Rice says, reminds us it’s hard to replace habits of tyranny with habits of democracy. Looking at Iraq and Afghanistan, she reflects, “Who are we to scoff at people having difficulty with democracy?” But, she says, change will come. She recalls having met with a conservative cleric in Iraq, with whom she could not shake hands because she was an unrelated female. At the end of their meeting, he called in his modestly covered 13-year-old granddaughter to meet the Secretary of State, and the granddaughter told her, “I want to be foreign minister too.”

Rice embraces the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. When four little black girls, including one with whom Rice used to play dolls, were killed in the infamous 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, her father and others formed a community watch, sitting on their front porches with shotguns. “We had the right to defend ourselves when authorities wouldn’t protect us. If (notorious public safety commissioner) Bull Connor knew where the guns were, they wouldn’t have let us keep them.”

Rice’s awareness of foreign policy began during the Cuban missile crisis when, as a child, she learned that Birmingham was within range of the Soviet missiles implanted in Cuba. As an adult and a political scientist with expertise in the former Soviet Union, Rice changed from a Democrat to a Republican because of Ronald Reagan ‘s anti-Soviet positions.

On the domestic front, Rice supports affirmative action (knows she benefitted from it) to provide access but not guarantee success, which must be earned. She is appalled by today’s scapegoating of immigrants. “The United States that talks of taking away citizenship of children of illegal immigrants born here, I don’t know that country.”

Rice dislikes identity politics, assuming we know what people think because they’re blacks, or they’re women, or immigrants. “Yes, we’re part of groups, but we’re also individuals.” Group labels, she warns, create feelings of victimhood, of aggrievement, whose twin brother is entitlement. And once you’re there, you stop working, and you stop caring.”

As for our economic problems, Rice says it is the private sector that is creative and innovative, willing to take risks. “The U.S. government, not so much.” But, she says, she won’t “chirp” at those now on the inside. She knows how hard it is to govern, and has respect for the process.

Regrettably, the format of Rice’s appearance provided only for written questions from The Commonwealth Institute audience, so, despite moderator Jon Keller’s well crafted questions, she was insulated from questions inviting follow-ups such as, “In setting foreign policy, which were the issues on which you disagreed most with President Bush?”

An athlete, a concert pianist, a political scientist and diplomat, Condoleezza Rice is a mighty interesting person with a lot of potential for the national stage, should she ever want to subject herself to what that requires. She may be too much of a lady.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below

3 Responses to Condoleeza Rice still has national potential by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. Gordon Pickguard says:

    It continues to baffle me why the Kennedy family allows the likes of Miss Rice to use the JFK Library speaking series as a platform to spred their lies and revise history to cover up their war crimes. Last year it was Kissinger. They both belong on death row. When will we learn ? Unless these frauds face justice more innocent women and children arround the world will die and it will be our own sons and daughters that will be sent to kill them !
    What’s wrong with Marjorie A-B ? Is she blogging from the senility unit of a nursing home ?

  2. C R Krieger says:

    My take is different from Mr Pickguard.  Maybe having worked around the corner from Ms Rice when I was on the Joint Staff and so was she (Strategy Division for me, Nuc/Chem for her).  You can disagree with Ms Rice and President Bush, but it should be done with some understanding that things are not so clear to those who have to actually take decisions.  I was impressed with Ms Rice’s comments about not commenting on what the Obama Administration is doing, because one doesn’t know all the things pressing in on the Administration.

    I am one of those against the death penalty, but if we are going to put the likes of Dr Kissinger (not my hero) or Ms Rice on death row they will not be lonely, since a lot of folks who worked for Kennedy, LBJ, Carter and Clinton could be up there with them, using the same criteria.  One person’s solution is another person’s war crime.  Bombing the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was seen by some as a bad thing to do.  Should we have resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan?  Not dealing with genocide seems pretty criminal.  No one in DC is going to be able to do it all correctly.  Sometimes the conflicts of the different needs will cause less than stellar decisions to be taken.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  3. JoeS says:

    At first I was impressed with Dr. Rice due to her expertise on the Soviet Union. And she is still an exceptional person, but I hold her in less respect due to her incredulous response to the 9/11 attacks (“Who would ever expect someone to fly an airplane into a building?”) and her support of the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq on the premise they had “weapons of mass destruction” that were a threat to our national security. As national security advisor she had the responsibility to get that intelligence right, and she failed to do so, whether it was a lack of effort or bowing to a reprehensible political agenda. If the latter, I can understand why GP may think as he does.