February 16, 2005
The BandwagonBy Matthew May
In the Feb. 15 edition of The American Thinker, Steven M. Warshawsky wrote a thought—provoking piece entitled 'Beware the Condi bandwagon"� that, essentially, warned the gathering numbers of 'Rice for President' supporters that Sec. Rice cannot win the presidency in 2008, nor is she qualified to do so at this point in her career. A response from one of the passengers on this bandwagon seems apt.
Mr. Warshawsky is right — not a lot of people start a career in elective politics by running for the White House. To do so is daring to be sure, but it is not 'arrogant' in this case. Yes, perhaps those on the left and in the mainstream media will try and attach the label arrogant to Sec. Rice, but this is the same group that attaches the words 'hubris,' 'arrogant,' 'boastful,' and 'war monger' to the sitting President of the United States. His more abrasive opponents have called him worse. It would not be surprising to see the word 'arrogant' listed as a suitable adjective for 'Republican' in the New York Times style guide. Perhaps arrogant could be justifiably applied to first—timers like Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, or Al Sharpton. But not Condoleezza Rice.
It is a valid criticism to point out that Sec. Rice does not have executive office—holding experience. Mr. Warshawsky impressively lists the previous executive experience of every President since 1900, which is dominated by governors and vice presidents. As he pointed out, the two exceptions (aside from Dwight D. Eisenhower) are Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy, both Senators. It is argued that Sec. Rice lacks the credentials of these men. Indeed she does, but she has credentials that those men lacked.
As John F. Kennedy pointed out in the first televised debate with Richard Nixon in 1960, 'there is no certain road to the presidency.' Kennedy reminded the nation that Abraham Lincoln's only service in the federal government prior to his inauguration was a largely forgotten term in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1840s. Dr. Rice's experience and training for the presidency somewhat mirrors James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams. In this time of threat and war, it is perhaps best to have a chief executive whose overarching purpose in life has not been seeking elected office, but one who has extensive training and experience dealing with the threats that face us.
Madison, Monroe, and Adams each served as Secretary of State no less than seven years apiece, and Monroe served as Secretary of War. Adams served as minister to Russia and Great Britain. Indeed, they held elected office, but their most formidable experience and training for the presidency came in these appointed offices that deal with foreign affairs and potential conflict. Similarly, Dr. Rice's experience in the administrations of both of the Bush presidencies has provided (and is providing and will provide her) a unique first—hand role in shaping and executing the foreign policy and defense of the United States. Because our world is still dangerous, and because President Bush has said repeatedly and correctly that the war on terrorism will go beyond his time in office, Dr. Rice can and will step into the role of Commander—in—Chief with ease, and no potential opponent will be able to command better the immediate respect of the world upon entering office.
Whether intentionally or not, Mr. Warshawsky seems to dismiss Sec. Rice's six years as Stanford University provost, a position in which she was the chief budget officer as well as chief academic officer. Sec. Rice was a responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget, and for the academic program for 14,000 students and 1,400 faculty member. Obviously this sort of budget looks small compared to the federal budget or the budgets of some large states, but the same principles apply. University administrators are no strangers to dealing with competing interests, difficult resolutions, and tough, final decisions. These experiences as provost are not to be lightly dismissed.
As for Sec. Rice's lack of a recognizable base of support, that's what we're doing, and why we are doing it now. It's true, Sec. Rice has not spent her adult life adding 3x5 cards to an expanding Rolodex of political supporters and cronies, nor has she spent her adult life on the hustings, shaking hands, kissing babies, and making promises. However, should she become the nominee for the Republican Party, is it conceivable that President Bush would not endorse her and — even more importantly — not hit the campaign trail with her? Automatically she inherits a substantial portion of President Bush's supporters, supporters who have not wavered in the face of relentless attacks, phony charges, and never—ending condescension. We have learned to trust this President's judgment, and if he taps Sec. Rice as his successor, her account will be sufficiently opened. We're just here to spread the word, argue her case, and widen support.
More to the point, Sec. Rice has demonstrated, in her public appearances since the new year began, that she is more than able to deal with Congress, press the flesh and make charming impromptu remarks upon her first day on the job at State, and is leaving a trail of swooning diplomats and world leaders on her overseas trip. Sec. Rice is perfectly capable of adapting to a political campaign.
When it comes to demographic factors, nothing is to be taken for granted from any voting bloc — that's what Democrats do best. Her race, while having the attraction of getting to watch the so—called feminists and civil rights activists froth at the mouth at the prospect of the first black and the first woman president being a Republican, is not the main factor in our support. We are not playing 'diversity games' with the presidency. Simply stated, given our time and place in history, Sec. Rice's experience in developing a winning strategy in the war against terrorism, and now as the chief diplomat of the United States, I feel she is the most qualified candidate in the Republican Party to succeed George W. Bush. Interestingly, Mr. Warshawsky mentions that in 1996, he was very much excited at the prospect of a Colin Powell candidacy. Why wasn't Powell's flirtation with starting at the top 'arrogant' and what would his demographic base have been?
Mr. Warshawsky's most effective argument against a Rice candidacy comes in the form of her lack of experience with domestic policy issues. This is totally valid and definitely a concern. Yet of the potential candidates Mr. Warshawsky mentioned (since he seems to quite logically favor governors), a complete lack of foreign policy experience works against governors in reverse. As Sec. Rice has no doubt seen, deficiencies in certain areas are best remedied by adding competent advisers to the staff. President Bush was routinely ridiculed for his lack of foreign policy experience (and he admittedly did not have much as governor of Texas) and foreign travel in 2000, yet he hired the best person he could to advise him on a proper course. Her name is Condoleezza Rice. Sec. Rice will be sufficiently schooled in domestic issues to further the policies of the Bush Administration, much as William Howard Taft made the case in 1908 for a furtherance of 'programs that have become known as the 'Roosevelt policies.''
Rice's gender really has nothing to do with her ability to faithfully execute the office of the presidency. Many Republican voters recognize that Sec. Rice is as tough as nails when it comes to making difficult decisions, especially when it comes to sending men and women into harm's way. Her rapport with the military is obvious, as is her courage, which she demonstrated in accompanying the President on a dangerous trip to Iraq on Thanksgiving 2003. Many would probably argue that, in this regard, she might even be more clear—headed and hawkish than Colin Powell, who actually saw combat. Too many men throughout the nation work with and, in many cases, are supervised by women, to vote solely on gender, and a Hillary Rodham Clinton nomination (the Democrats are just dumb enough to do it) renders the argument moot.�
Many of the most prominent members of the Bush Administration are women, including the White House counsel. The argument about the masculine nature of the presidency can be made from now until the end of time. We believe the time is now not necessarily for a female president, but for this female president.
Among Mr. Warshawsky's list of potential candidates, all have a great number of flaws. Sen. McCain is a camera—hog with exactly no executive experience; Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor and a hero of 9/11, but where is his base bloc? Gov. Bush would be a great nominee, but time and history are not on his side right now. He is for down the line, and the media would no doubt argue that only Kennedys and Clintons are 'allowed' dynasties. Ken Blackwell is one to watch but, as stated before, his lack of foreign policy experience is a more glaring flaw than Sec. Rice's lack of domestic experience. None of these people are as strong a candidate as Sec. Rice.
Indeed, it is early, and much will happen between now and 2008. But those of us who want Sec. Rice to consider the presidency are not doing so because we enjoy daydreaming. We believe she is the most qualified person to succeed the President, and, in fact, is his natural successor given its making the war against terrorism paramount, as it should be. Who better to become the next President than one of the architects of the strategy, and the chief American diplomat who will build and maintain relations with nations whose support and cooperation are vital in this effort? Who better to carry on the vital work that must be done?
As conservatives, supporting a candidate for the presidency who is not a career politician would do much to further the argument mere electoral success is not a barometer of exemplary executive leadership potential for the future. Sec. Rice can be that symbol, and she can continue to represent her nation — a nation that needs her — in the highest counsels of our government. Her life, her education, and her experience are uniquely American and she is represents the best ideals of the Republican Party and the United States of America.
If Condoleezza Rice is not qualified for the presidency, who is?
Matt May can be reached at email@example.com; his blogspots are mattymay.blogspot.com and citizensforcondi.com