I Stephens: Anyone But Condi
II Mort Klein’s commentary on a speech given by C. Rice, October 20, 2006
(Brett Stephens is one of the brightest, most astute and most dedicated American political commentators in today’s media. I rate him with Chas. Krauthammer. Besides, to my own mind, Condi Rice has about the same emotional and political understanding of the importance of Israel to the well-being of the US, as does Ron Paul.) jsk
A tempting but unwise choice for Romney’s vice president.
By BRET STEPHENS
Did you loathe and detest the Bush administration? If so, you’d probably say its ideas were horrible and their execution worse. Did you not loathe and detest the Bush administration? In that case, you might say its ideas were pretty good—only the execution often left something to be desired.
Now the person who did much of the executing tops a list of names to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. A mid-April CNN poll finds that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has unmatched name recognition and a favorable rating of 80% among GOP voters. She’s also the person Republicans would most like to see on the ticket, with 26% to runner-up Rick Santorum’s 21%. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tie for third place at 14%.
(Really hard to believe those numbers. Who took the poll – Arab propagandist James Zogby’s little brother John Zogby – now at the very bottom of the political pollster recommended list?) jsk
The political appeal of Romney-Rice is obvious. Here are two seasoned and reassuring presences who seem to complement each other in all the right ways. He’s the business whiz; she’s the foreign-policy wonk. His government experience is in the statehouse; hers in Washington and foreign capitals. He’s the un-Obama; she’s the un-Palin. He’s the world’s whitest white man; she isn’t. That could even count for something if President Obama decides to dump Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton.
There’s only one problem. Ms. Rice was a bad national security adviser and a bad secretary of state. She was on the wrong side of some of the administration’s biggest internal policy fights. She had a tendency to flip-flop when it came to the president’s core priorities and her political misjudgment more than once cost Mr. Bush dearly. She was a muddler of differences at the national security council. Her tenure at State was notable mainly for the degree to which the bureaucracy ran her, not the other way around.
Take the surge. In her memoir “No Higher Honor,” Ms. Rice recalls some of the events leading up to Mr. Bush’s best and bravest decision. She starts by noting that, in early 2006, she had endorsed the idea of creating the blue-ribbon bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which wound up calling for a diplomatic, but not military, surge. She then adds that “it was a bitter pill to swallow that many commentators subsequently depicted the commission as a gathering of wise men from the administration of George H.W. Bush, who would teach his prodigal son a thing or two about realism and competence in foreign policy.”
Well, yes, that’s how it was seen, and one wonders why Ms. Rice couldn’t have seen it coming. Nor does Ms. Rice cover herself in glory by describing her ambivalence about every option on the table in the run-up to the surge—the surge itself; a mini-surge; some form of retreat; or her own preferred option to have Iraqis “kill one another for a while before they get the point.” At length she admits to being scolded by the president:
“‘So what’s your plan, Condi? We’ll just let them kill each other, and we’ll stand by and try to pick up the pieces?'” Ms. Rice recalls bridling at having her feelings hurt.
It’s true that the surge was a hard call, or at least it seemed so at the time. Harder to forgive was Ms. Rice’s performance on North Korea. In October 2006, Kim Jong Il tested one of his nuclear bombs. Ms. Rice’s response to this flagrant challenge to the Bush Doctrine was to reward Pyongyang with an engagement policy that would ultimately lead to the lifting of key sanctions—in exchange for exactly nothing.
“Two and a half months [after the nuclear test],” recalls Dick Cheney in his memoir, “with Secretary Rice’s approval, Assistant Secretary [Chris] Hill and the American delegation held a bilateral meeting with the North Korean delegation in Berlin. On the evening of January 16, 2007, the Americans provided a lavish meal, supplied large amounts of liquor and proposed friendly toasts. . . . The North Koreans had crossed one of the brightest of bright lines—they had tested a nuclear weapon—and we were hosting them at a banquet.”
Ms. Rice’s North Korean misadventures are worth pondering for what they say about her instincts and judgment: her readiness to put hope before experience, reward bad behavior with concessions, allow her subordinates to flout the explicit instructions of the president and—if Mr. Cheney’s account is to be believed—more or less baldly lie to the president about the terms of the supposed deal the U.S. and the North had struck. The shame is that Mr. Bush blessed all this when he ought to have reprimanded Ms. Rice, if not fired her outright.
What about the rest of Ms. Rice’s tenure? By her own admission, she flubbed the handling of the notorious 16 words on Iraq’s WMD, giving life to the narrative that Mr. Bush lied about the intelligence. She hired Flynt Leverett for a top job at NSC; he’s since gone on to become the Beltway’s go-to apologist for Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She arranged a premature ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon that allowed Hezbollah to declare victory. She opposed a U.S. attack on the nuclear reactor North Korea had built in Syria, leaving Israel to do the job.
It’s probably a testament to Ms. Rice’s inspiring story and winning persona that this blemished record has largely gone down the memory hole. The temptation for Mr. Romney to ask her to join the ticket must be great.
Still it must be said: If the presumptive Republican nominee is going to choose his running mate with an eye toward governing the country and not just winning the election, he can do better than Ms. Rice. Choosing her would simply be evidence that he doesn’t have much faith in his own November chances.
II US Secretary of State C. Rice Shocking Speech
Redacted from Mort Klein’s commentary
October 20, 2006
I’ve heard and read many speeches on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those made by well-known, hostile critics of Israel always caused me great pain by their use of hyperbole, absurd analogy and falsehoods. But I was not prepared for a speech by an American secretary of state with those very attributes, such as the keynote address delivered last week by Condoleezza Rice to the gala dinner of the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington.
Secretary Rice stated that “there could be no greater legacy for America than to help to bring into being a Palestinian state.” Really? What type of legacy would it be to reward the Palestinians, who are among the most pro-terrorist societies in the world, with statehood?
Despite Rice’s claims about “moderate Palestinians,” their own polls show that Palestinians consistently approve of suicide bombings and terrorism (57% and 61% in two September polls), rocket attacks on Israel (63% in September) and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers (75% in September). An August 2006 poll showed that 97% of Palestinians supported Hezbollah’s actions. Successive Palestinian polls over recent years always show high levels of support for the so-called “right of return.”
Rice also drew an analogy between Palestinian dreams for statehood and the American struggle for independence. This not only implies an odious comparison of Yasser Arafat and Hamas leaders to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; it also ignores the Palestinians’ promotion of Israel’s destruction and their hatred and murder of Jews.
The Palestinians’ real goals are made clear by the incitement in the speeches of their leaders and in the media, mosques, schools and youth camps under the control of the Palestinian Authority. P.A. maps, atlases and textbooks display no country called Israel. They name streets, schools and sports teams after suicide bombers. America’s founding fathers didn’t want to destroy England and its civilians; they simply wanted independence.
Under current circumstances, a Palestinian state would simply be another terrorist state. Especially now, with the rise to power of Hamas, it is simply wrong to even discuss the possibility of a Palestinian state. Statehood would give Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups greater power and opportunity to promote their terrorist agenda; it would not moderate them….
Throughout this speech, Rice repeatedly pledged her support for P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, calling him a “moderate leader.” But is he a moderate leader? He co-founded the terrorist group Fatah with Yasser Arafat and was his deputy for 40 years. He funded the Munich massacre. He wrote a Ph.D. thesis and a book denying the Holocaust. As president of the P.A., Abbas said “it is our duty to implement the principles of Yasser Arafat.” He refers to terrorists as “heroes fighting for freedom.” He rebuffed President Bush’s call at the 2005 Aqaba summit to accept Israel publicly as a Jewish state …
But Secretary Rice ignored all of this and delivered the most pro-Palestinian speech in memory by a senior U.S. administration official. This speech is surely at odds with an administration that claims to be “the best friend Israel ever had.” If the president does not subscribe to the themes in her speech, he should publicly distance himself from it immediately.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.