Yes, I know, she’s a Republican. But she was a Democrat back in 1982. Come to think of it, Donald Trump was as well. And, yes, she supported the war in Iraq, but, come to think of it, so did you, Joe, and so did Donald Trump (until he said he didn’t).
I remember my dear friend and business partner, former conservative Republican Representative from Maryland’s 5th congressional district, Larry Hogan (Md. Governor Hogan’s dad), telling me back in 2007 that he wished Condi Rice would run for President.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because she’s so damn smart and so damn decent,” he replied.
How’s that for radical thinking these days, choosing someone who is both smart and decent? Of course, Larry Hogan was also of the smart-and-decent class of politicians. That’s why his fellow Republicans in Maryland’s fifth district sent him packing following his very painful but very principled vote to impeach Richard Nixon.
But I digress. Condoleezza Rice would be a great VP candidate for Joe Biden because she is really smart, more uniformly respected both here and abroad, more diversely accomplished, and, yes, has probably alienated fewer people than anyone in the history of politics. If there’s a weakness in her credentials, it is that she largely missed the nation’s great civil rights struggle. Then again, she was eight years old when her friend, Denise McNair, was killed in the Birmingham Church bombing, and she was only ten years old when the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Rice, as she came of age, was focused like a laser on simply excelling at virtually everything she did. She was a competitive teenage figure skater and an impressively accomplished concert pianist.
She graduated high school at age 16 and the University of Denver, phi beta kappa and magna cum laude, at nineteen. She had teenage aspirations of being a figure-skating Olympian, and, for a while, a concert pianist. Once she realized she wasn’t quite talented enough to make a career of music, she focused on foreign policy and found her niche.
By age twenty-one, she had earned a master’s degree in political science at Notre Dame, and by twenty-six a Ph.D., also in political science, from the University of Denver. Also, at age twenty-six, Condoleezza Rice became a fellow at Stanford University’s Arms Control and Disarmament Program. Rice remained at Stanford as a professor specializing in political science with an emphasis on the Soviet Union. She, reportedly, is fluent in Russian, and also speaks and reads French and Spanish.
Her grasp of really complicated issues was readily apparent to virtually everyone in authority at Stanford. At age 39, Rice was elevated to Provost of the university, the youngest person ever to hold that position at Stanford. As Provost, she was responsible for administering the entire academic and grant program and served as the university’s chief budget officer. She was not only smart, but she also distinguished herself as an adept decision-maker and a talented executive.
Former Secretary of State George Schultz and many others at Stanford began to notice. She was participating in an arms control conference at Stanford in 1985, and so impressed another attendee, Brent Scowcroft, she was subsequently recruited by the Reagan Administration to join the National Security Council as the Administration’s expert on the Soviet Union. She was 31-years old.
Condoleezza Rice has served, with distinction, in three Administrations—with Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 and Bush 43, during which time she served as both National Security Advisor and then as US Secretary of State. It is said that President George H.W. Bush was so captivated by her grasp of the very complicated issues with respect to the Soviet Union that he made her the Administration’s point person in his dealings with Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. The rest is pretty much history.
So, as we look to the election later this year, we contemplate President Trump and, presumably, Vice President Pence, leading the Republicans, and Democratic Candidate Joe Biden and, as yet, an undetermined woman leading the Democrats. Should Joe Biden win the election he will become the oldest person ever elected to that office. And, guess what, so will Donald Trump, should he win in November. So, either one or the other of the two oldest men ever to be elected President of the United States will reign from the Oval Office beginning next January. That’s where we are folks.
So, the nominees for Vice President are extraordinarily important this time around. They really are. There are a number of Democratic women whose names are being bandied about—a first-term senator from California, and the senior senator from Massachusetts, a couple of governors whose executive experience, while impressive, do not really commend them to the presidency, a mayor or two whose executive experience, likewise, does not command them to the presidency, and a former UN ambassador who also served as national security advisor to President Obama. All quite capable, but none of whom, in the opinion of this writer, holds a candle to Condi Rice.
Now, I recognize the visceral hold political parties have on their constituent publics. Nominate someone from another party to be the presidential candidate’s running mate? Impossible! But is it? Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, selected Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, to be his running mate. Yes, I know, that didn’t work out so well. But it is doable, and under certain circumstances, it can make sense. This election is just such a circumstance.
A Biden-Rice ticket would attract millions of quiet but unhappy Republican voters who, otherwise, might just sit on the sidelines come November. Really, this is no time for political orthodoxy to dictate who our choices are. This election shouldn’t only be about the party because sometimes party loyalty demands too much.
Do I really think a Biden-Rice ticket is feasible? Nah, of course not, and certainly not in this political environment. It’s too bad, though, because Condoleezza Rice, like a few other women, some of whom do, in fact, lead their nations today, could really, well, prove that our nation is still great.