Condi Rice Rumor Reveals Divisions in Romney Camp and on the Right

Condoleezza Rice gets mixed reviews from Republicans these days.

Condoleezza Rice gets mixed reviews from Republicans these days.

Well, we now have some idea of what it was about Condoleezza Rice’s appearance at the exclusive Romney fundraiser in Utah that got the Presidential candidate’s supporters’ juices going and thus attracted the major media’s attention. Turns out somebody recorded her remarks and judging by the poor audio quality of the version on the Internet it was probably done surreptitiously.

On July 13, Buzzfeed.com posted a 13-minute audio clip of the speech.

Up until now the reports on what Rice said at the confab have come from what are called surrogates. It is quite clear that their testimonies were stage managed and designed to create a media stir. According to Buzzfeed, one person said he “was surprised by the red meat rhetoric employed by Rice, who has largely eschewed the political arena in recent years, devoting her time instead to an academic career at Stanford. “She’s either very worried about a socialist threat to America, or she wants to be Vice President,” the surrogate said.

Of course, Rice has consistently said she not interested in being a candidate but as soon as a Drudge Report—citing other unnamed surrogates—suggested she was “near the top” on Romney’s list of potential running mates, the speculation took wings. It could have been a real trial balloon. The Republicans have a problem; opinion polls indicate no enthusiasm for any of the other names that have been thrown into the hat. It has been suggested that the whole hullabaloo was concocted to divert public attention from the unfolding story about the former Massachusetts governor’s days as head of Bain Capital. That could be, but the remarks Rice made in Utah are also a window into the foreign policy views that turn rich Republicans on these days.

With Romney standing at her side while she spoke, Rice told the suits that the Obama presidency has been a failure, and in a period of “dangerous, chaotic times,” has led to an international crisis. She accused the current administration of displaying weakness on the world stage, engaging in class warfare, and employing failed economic policies at home.

According to Buzzfeed the comments that got her the first standing ovation were about the domestic situation. “It is a narrative that is being pushed by our current president, that ‘I’m doing poorly because you’re doing well,’” she said. “That has never been the American narrative. Ours has never been a narrative of aggrievement, and ours has never been a narrative of entitlement.”

Later, Rice declared, “It is time for all of us, in any way we can, to mobilize, get our act together, and storm Washington D.C.” That got the audience on their feet again.

The theme of Rice’s remarks on foreign policy centered on attacking the President’s unwillingness to more forcefully assert U.S. power, his refusal to ascribe to “American exceptionalism” the way she says Romney has, and her charge that Obama has allowed U.S. policy to be “governed by the lowest common denominator collective will of the so-called international community of the United Nations.”

“What we’re feeling most is not just that tumult, we’ve been through tumult before,” Rice said. “What we’re feeling is the absence of American leadership.”

“When our friends aren’t certain that they can count on us — and they aren’t so certain now — and when our foes don’t fear us or respect us, this is what you get: tumultuous, dangerous chaotic times,”

Rice was part of the group of foreign policy hawks known of as “The Vulcans” that advised George W. Bush during his campaign and went on to form a core group in his Administration, herself as National Security Adviser, and later Secretary of State.

Condoleezza Rice will not be the next vice-president of the U.S. She won’t be the party’s nominee. (But, she could be positioning herself – or is being positioned – for a place in a possible Romney administration.) While the idea of her on the ticket drew some favorable comment from some members of the Republican establishment, including rightwing hawk William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, the suggestion elicited howls from much of the right. Most of it has centered on her position on reproductive rights and immigration where she and Romney are not on the same page. Some of it relates to her association with the foreign policy of the Bush Administration, something the Romney campaign tries to avoid discussing.

Meanwhile, the idea of Rice on the ticket drew some flak from another quarter – supporters of the policies of the Israeli government. Morton Klein, the national president of the Zionist Organization of America and a frequent critic of the Obama administration, sounded a similar note. He was quoted by the Jewish Telegraph Agency this week as saying. “It understandably would be concerning to us if he’s picking somebody who shows herself to be hostile to Israel and to U.S.-Israel relations.” Klein, who often criticized Rice when she was secretary of state, continued, “She pressed Israel to make one-sided concessions while not making sure the Palestinians fulfilled their obligations.”

“Choosing Condoleezza Rice would inject tremendous excitement into the campaign and remove all suspense from the outcome,” conservative columnist George Will said on ABC‘s “This Week” last Sunday. “You would have such an uproarious convention in Tampa. You’d have perhaps a third party. You’d have a challenge to her on the floor. You’d have walkouts of delegations, and he’d lose 40 states.”

On his very rightwing RedState blog Erick Erickson called the notion of Rice on the ticket “silly,” adding, “I don’t know who is hitting the crack rock tonight in the rumor mill, but bull shiitake mushrooms.”

On some of the further out rightwing Internet outlets the language used to reject a Rice candidacy have been – how do you put this? –well, outright racist.

On the other hand, even as it became clear she would not be selected vice-presidential candidate, the Boston Herald endorsed her, reporting that she had been a “superstar” at the Utah moneybags gathering. Noting Rice’s comment about the alleged absence of U.S world leadership, it said editorially, “That is at the heart of what has gone seriously wrong with American foreign policy and rarely has it been articulated so boldly and succinctly.”

The editors of The Independent in Britain took the Rice rumor seriously, editorializing on the subject July 15, and warning that, “She also has political baggage, both as the adviser who told Bush Sr. not to back Ukrainian independence, and as National Security Adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war. Raising such ghosts may do the Republican cause more harm than good.” The newspaper concludes, “Condi is an interesting suggestion; but she is absolutely the wrong choice. Unless, of course, one is a Democrat.”

Carl Bloice, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is a columnist for the Black Commentator. He also serves on its editorial board.