Written by Diana West
Drudge posted a scare piece last night that gave me nightmares: Condi Rice is supposedly a frontrunner for the Romney 2012 ticket.
This Condi-flutter happened before in 2008 and I was horrified then, too.
Just on the most basic political calculations, you don't have to be a high-priced political consultant to know that no voter who isn't already attracted to Romney will flock to a Romney-Rice ticket. No black person, no woman, no state, no constituency would suddenly decide boost a Romney vote count just because Condi was there.
Second (and I can sense the Obama camp licking its chops), selecting Rice would link (manacle) Romney to George W. Bush -- a political bonanza for Democrats!
Third, fourth, fifth, etc. are contained in a series of columns and posts I've previously written about Rice. The bottom line is that Condoleezza Rice looks at both the United State and the world through a very murky prism of race, seeing in the segregated South she was born in not only the template for struggle everywhere, but also the actors in struggle everywhere. This shockingly parochial view sharply limits her understanding of war and peace at home and abroad. Football Commissioner, fine. Nominee for Vice President, disastrous.
A selection below:
If Condoleezza Rice ever does run for president, the following line may become very familiar:
"The only problem, of course, was that when the Founding Fathers said, `We the people,' they didn't mean me."
For the past few years, the most powerful woman on earth has been delivering this clincher. And it gets a gasp every time. I first read it in a speech Ms. Rice gave last week in Birmingham. Of course, it's a dramatic, even melodramatic, statement—a testament to the continuing expansion of liberty provided by our 218-year-old Constitution. But Ms. Rice drops it in by way of illustrating the historic flaws of democracy, American-style; and this she drops in by way of dismissing the current flaws of democracy-building in the Muslim world.
It's an awkward exercise, but she's bent on it. "We should note that unlike in our Constitutional Convention, the Iraqis have not made a compromise as bad as the one that made my ancestors three-fifths of a man," she said. Is it politically incorrect to find this statement offensive? Yes, slaves were indeed counted as a fractional person in pre-abolition censuses that determined how many representatives a state would send to the House of Representatives. (Slaveholders, not slavery opponents, wanted a slave to count as one person to augment their state's political power.) But it is the miracle of that 18th-century document that it contained the blueprint for abolition. By contrast, the 2005 Iraqi Constitution (also the 2003 Palestinian Authority constitution and the 2004 Afghanistan constitution) contains provisions for a sharia state under which all men are not created equal, and freedom of conscience is denied.
But that's not what Ms. Rice sees, and it's her prism that counts. While the president works his way through a string of "isms" (fascism, totalitarianism, communism, Nazism) to place the ideology of Islamic terrorism into context, the Secretary of State studies something else: the lessons of the civil rights movement. In the transformation of her hometown of Birmingham from, as she put it, "a place called `Bombingham,' where I witnessed the denial of democracy in America for so many years," the Secretary of State seems to see the blueprint for the democratization of the non-democratic, particularly Muslim world.
This Rice Doctrine grows from the segregated South: "Across the empire of Jim Crow, from upper Dixie to the lower Delta, the descendants of slaves shamed our nation with the power of righteousness and redeemed America at last from its original sin of slavery," Ms. Rice said. "By resolving the contradiction at the heart of our democracy," she continued, "America finally found its voice as a true champion of democracy beyond its shores."
In this worldview, it's not, say, the 700,000 casualties of the Civil War plus one assassinated president who redeemed that original sin of slavery, but rather the civil rights movement that helped overturn Southern segregation laws a century later. Indeed, it was only at this relatively late date, if I'm reading Ms. Rice's words correctly, that America could finally sally forth as a "true champion of democracy"—which makes you wonder who it was who went to Belleau Wood in 1918, St Lo in 1944, and Chosin Reservoir in 1950.
The implication seems clear: American democracy wasn't all that much to be proud of until the civil rights leaders Ms. Rice calls the "impatient patriots" — Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, for instance — came along. This supports one of her main policy points; namely, that even in America "democratization is a long and difficult process, not a singular event." So much for the miracle at Philadelphia.
Such a view of American unexceptionalism makes it perfectly okay to support other "impatient patriots" (her phrase again) in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. They, like our Founders, she might say, permit anti-democratic tendencies to mar their nascent democracies (sharia on the books, bomb-toting terrorists on the ballots), but no one should balk. Only "cynics," as Ms. Rice said—the same people she said "once believed that blacks were unfit for democracy"—argue "that the people of the Middle East, perhaps because of their color or their creed or their culture or even perhaps because of their religion, are somehow incapable of democracy."
In this mix 'n' match take on history, facts about clashing belief systems have no place, and fears for freedom under sharia are "cynical" or worse. But when debate is stopped cold by pushing the hot buttons of racism and bigotry, realpolitik gives way to feelpolitik—maybe the ultimate doctrine of pre-emption.
I wonder if Condoleezza Rice was surprised by the headlines over her comment to The Washington Times that America suffers from a national “birth defect” — namely, the practice of slavery at the time of the nation’s founding.
Make that the first founding. She said she considers the civil-rights movement to be the nation’s “second founding.” The secretary of state made another point. She said that “one of the primary things” that attracted her to the candidacy of President Bush “was not actually foreign policy.” Really? Rather, she explained, “it was No Child Left Behind.” She continued: “When he talks about ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations,’ I know what that feels like.”
Miss Rice has actually said all of this before, including more emphatic remarks on “soft” bigotry. “I’ve seen it. Okay?” Miss Rice said in 2005 to the New York Times. “And it’s not in this president. It is, however, pretty deeply ingrained in our system and we’re going to have to do something about it.” Miss Rice offered as an example her own high-school teacher who suggested she was junior college material.
Maybe someone should inform the secretary of state that being underestimated, turned down or shunted aside is, alas, part of the human experience, not the exclusive function of race. But it’s probably too late for that. As secretary of state — not, say, secretary of education — Miss Rice has long been doing “something about it” on the world stage. Instead of different states and school systems, she’s been working with different countries and belief systems. Suddenly, things about the Rice Doctrine — better, the No Country Left Behind Doctrine — begin to fall into place.
I’ve written before about how Miss Rice makes faulty comparisons between the evolution of democratic principle (all men are created equal) in the United States and the introduction of democratic procedure (ballot boxes) to the Middle East, always ignoring both the miracle of our 18th-century Constitution, which contained the blueprint for abolition, and the dispiriting reality of 21st-century Islamic constitutions, which charter Shariah states where freedom of conscience (among other things) doesn’t exist.
I’ve written also about how she sees the transformation of her once-segregated hometown of Birmingham, Ala. as the blueprint for democratizing the Islamic world. Hers is a worldview personal to the point of autobiographical, as when she explains how, as a daughter of Birmingham (or “Bombingham,” as she has called it), she can relate both to Israeli fear of Palestinian bombs, and Palestinian “humiliation and powerlessness” over Israeli checkpoints, which she sees as a form of segregation. What she never seems to realize is that such “segregation,” far being the sort of prejudice she remembers, is actually an Israeli line of defense against the ultimate prejudice of Palestinian bombs.
Considering her remarks about America’s “birth defect” — an egregious term for any secretary of state to use about a nation that has brought more liberty to more races, colors and creeds than any in history — I am struck anew how deeply Miss Rice’s vision of race in America, or, perhaps, in segregated Birmingham, affects her vision of America in the wider world. It is as if Miss Rice sees American influence as a means by which to address what she perceives as disparities of race or Third World heritage on the international level.
This would help explain her ahistorical habit of linking the civil rights movement to the Bush administration’s effort to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, in a 2003 speech to the National Association of Black Journalists, she argued that blacks, more than others, should “reject” the “condescending” argument that some are not “ready” for freedom. “That view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham and it’s wrong in 2003 in Baghdad,” she said. In 2006, she made a similar point. “When I look around the world and I hear people say, ‘Well, you know, they’re just not ready for democracy,’ it really does resonate,” Miss Rice told ABC’s Katie Couric. “It makes me so angry because I think there are those echoes of what people once thought about black Americans.”
There’s something shockingly provincial at work here. In seeing so much of the world through an American prism of race, Miss Rice has effectively blinded herself to historical and cultural and religious differences between Islam and the West. To put it simply, neither Baghdad nor Gaza is Birmingham. And nothing in all of history quite compares to Philadelphia.
At a closed-door session during the Munich Conference--I mean, the Annapolis Conference--Condoleezza Rice spoke of the empathy she feels for both Palestinian Arabs and Israelis due to her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama "at a time of separation and tension" in the segregated South.
According to the Washington Post, Rice's remarks went like this:
She noted that a local church was bombed by white separatists, killing four girls, including a classmate of hers.
"Like the Israelis, I know what it is like to go to sleep at night, not knowing if you will be bombed, of being afraid to be in your own neighborhood, of being afraid to go to your church," she said.
But, she added, as a black child in the South, being told she could not use certain water fountains or eat in certain restaurants, she also understood the feelings and emotions of the Palestinians.
"I know what it is like to hear to that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are Palestinian," she said. "I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness."
Let's think about Rice's role-playing here. She understands the Israeli fear of Palestinian terrorism because of the bombing her black community suffered at the hands of violent racists, This is her Israeli=black argument. She understands the "humiliation" of Palestinians who undergo checkpoint searches and other Israeli security measures against such Palestinian terrorism because of the restrictions of Jim Crow race laws. This is her Palestinian=black argument. To her mind, the black experience applies equally to both sides.
But it doesn't, it can't--not unless morality and reason are completely divorced from the tale. The Israelis who are the victims of Palestinian bombs and the Israelis who defend against such terrorism with checkpoints and other security measures are one and the same--the good guys, or, in Rice's framework, the black people. Rice, however, believes Israelis who set up checkpoints specifically to defend fellow Israelis from Palestinian bombs are the bad guys--the moral equivalent of racists who inflicted state-sanctioned inequality on blacks.
There's another Rice-ian tangle to unravel: Her projection of prejudice, Deep South-style, onto the Middle East. The Arab campaign against Israel is steeped in jihadist ideology driven by race-hatred for Jews, as former dhimmis, who have had the audacity to reclaim lands once conquered by Islam. Her church was bombed out of such race hatred; the Jim Crow laws were based in racial prejudice (and obviously not to protect the black community). The Israelis are bombed out of race hatred; but they themselves set up self-defense mechanisms, such as Palestinian checkpoints, not out of race-hatred or prejudice, but in self defense. Rice's analogy would only begin to work if, after the church bombing, her black commuity had set up checkpoints for white people wishing to enter her neighborhood.
And maybe that notion reveals another flaw in her analogy. Most white Americans were horrified by the Birmingham chuch bombing, and certainly neither sought nor found religious (Christian, Jewish) justification for it. On the contrary, most Palestinians favor or rationalize terrorism against Jewish targets, and can easily find religious (Islamic) justification for it.
But the Moral Equivalence fix is in, regardless of how ahistorial or amoral it may be. Maybe it reached its highest, most ludicrous, most insulting expression when President Bush read aloud the joint "understanding" agreed to by Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the end of the conference. Among other things, it expressed a determination (whatever that means) "to confront terrorism and incitement,whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis."
On October 11, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the following:
“I believe that there could be no greater legacy for America than to help to bring into being a Palestinian state for a people who have suffered too long, who have been humiliated too long, who have not reached their potential for too long, and who have so much to give to the international community and to all of us."
No greater legacy?
Almost exactly one year later, a cartoon has been published in a newspaper controlled by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction--the supposed Good Guys, according to American dreampolitik, which closes its eyes to Fatah's and Hamas' shared goal of Israel's destruction.
Not that Fatah is too thrilled with us, either. The cartoon features a Muslim man beseeching Allah to kill Americans with four missiles aimed at an American fighter jet.
He prays: "Allah, scatter them!" "And turn their wives into widows!" "And turn their children into orphans!" "And give us victory over them!"
Something for the Condi's No-Greater-Legacy Scrapbook.
From an essay by Andrew C. McCarthy, posted here on January 6, 2009:
When we appraise hostile countries, it has become de rigueur in our foreign policy circles to distinguish the “people” (always good) from their nasty governments. So it is with the noble Palestinians. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted in a 2006 interview, for instance, that the “great majority” of them — i.e., upwards of “70 percent” — are “perfectly ready to live side by side with Israel because they just want to live in peace.”
This is preposterous. Palestinians are weaned on Jew-hatred through schools and media controlled by the competing factions and other jihadists. Their national heroes are those dedicated to killing Jews, most especially the “martyrs” (or shaheed) who self-implode in suicide attacks. It is to be expected, then, that when the public is polled in the actual Palestinian territories, rather than in Condi-world, a very different reality is reflected: About three in four Palestinians deny Israel’s right to exist, a figure that soars to over nine in ten when only the fighting-age demographic (between 18 and 25) is considered.
Just in passing, in August 2010, Paul Sperry noted in a report on Alwaleed bin Talal's mega-bucks support of Imam Rauf (of Ground Zero mosque infamy):
Before taking over Cordoba as executive director, [Aspen Mayor John S.] Bennett headed the Aspen Institute, which included among its board members former Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice has appeared with Rauf at events in Washington and overseas.
Aspen Institute recently launched the Middle East Leadership Initiative with "generous support" from Saudi Arabia. AbuSulayman, bin Talal's aide, is an Aspen Institute Middle East fellow.
After rereading these entries, I can only say it was worse than I remembered.
Diana West is the author of The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization. Her arttcle archive and blog are here.