Sunday, April 22, 2012

Doing Things the Rice Way

Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State, but she was much more: scholar, musician, and athlete. As a professor of political science at Stanford University, she was known as an expert on the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. As a pianist, she has played with the Denver Symphony, and accompanied Yo-Yo Ma. She excelled in skating and ballet as well. Historian Michael Savage writes:

Condoleezza Rice is one the classiest acts inside the Beltway. Brilliant, personable, loyal, savvy, articulate, and inexhaustibly talented, she very well may be one of the most qualified individuals to ever serve as Secretary of State. She can even ice skate and play classical piano. Where did she learn all this stuff?

Rice got her master's degree from the University of Notre Dame, and her Ph.D. from the University of Denver.

Kudos certainly go to her outstanding parents, both educators, for providing a stable and loving home-life and making sure that education was a top priority for young Condi.

Dr. Rice's father was a Presbyterian minister, and a civil rights activist. The event that seared its way most powerfully into Rice's memory was the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. She heard the blast. Rice recalls the terror she felt as an eight-year-old. "These terrible events burned into my consciousness," she remembers. And, as America shook its head in disbelief at the murder of four girls, Condi was mourning the two she knew personally - including Denise McNair, her kindergarten classmate. "I remember more than anything the coffins, the small coffins, and the sense that Birmingham was not a very safe place." Armed with a shotgun, her father joined the other men of the black community in night patrols to keep the KKK out of the neighborhood. It was in the crucible of that experience that Condoleezza developed her opposition to gun control and came to value what she sees as the Second Amendment guarantee of the "right to bear arms."

There was a clear link between the civil right struggle and the Second Amendment: "I also don't think we get to pick and choose in the Constitution. The Second Amendment is as important as the First Amendment," she said, "My father and his friends defended our community in 1962 and 1963 against white nightriders, sitting there armed. And so I'm very concerned about any abridgement of the Second Amendment. I am a Second Amendment absolutist."

Her university work in political science was impressive, earning her honors, publications, and eventually a promotion to provost of the university:

Her academic credentials are as impressive as her many talents and her upbringing, and her presence as the chief defender of the president's foreign policy is formidable.

Like many in the civil rights movement, Rice's father voted Republican, and she eventually followed:

Rice admits that she was driven from the Democratic Party into the ranks of the GOP by the incompetent foreign policy of Jimmy "I never expected the Soviets to invade Afghanistan" Carter. That notwithstanding, even Bill Clinton's top Russia advisor, Strobe Talbott, recommended that Clinto should appoint the prim but prowling [Rice] as the U.S. ambassador to Russia. He should have listened. She would later characterize Clinton's foreign policy with Russia as "happy talk." The ivy-covered walls of Stanford University weren't the only place where Clinton's foreign policy was considered a joke.

The linkage between Rice's memories of the civil rights movement - domestic policy - and her eventual appointment to the highest position in foreign policy lies in her family's experience of racism: she told the 2000 Republican National Convention, "My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did."