If National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar is correct, and the leak that hit the Drudge Report Thursday night claiming Mitt Romney‘s campaign is seriously considering former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for their vice presidential nominee is a float to see how the conservative political establishment would react, that reaction has been decidedly lackluster. Conservative pundits, with exceptions, have greeted the news with a mix of disbelief and despair – they feel Rice would be a liability rather than an asset on the ticket and, what’s more, she augments the problems that conservatives have with the moderate Romney. They are wrong. Rice would make a spectacular addition to the ticket and would make a powerful president, let alone VP.
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“I don’t know who is hitting the crack rock tonight in the rumor mill, but bull shiitake mushrooms,” writes RedState.com pundit Erick Erickson reacting to the Drudge story. He says that Rice is a problem for the ticket for a number of reasons – at the top of his list, she is pro-abortion.
Romney himself has said he underwent an “evolution” that moved him from his position as pro-choice, blue state governor to a conservative, pro-life Republican presidential nominee in recent years. That’s a dubious claim to make, but let’s take it at face value. Does adding a pro-choice vice presidential nominee to the ticket mean that pro-life GOP voters are going to stay home? In an election against President Barack Obama, whose administration has made a virtue of opposing legislation that would block Planned Parenthood from performing sex-selective abortions? Or whose health care reform legislation forces religious employers to provide abortifacients to their employees in their health insurance coverage over their objections guaranteed by the First Amendment? Come on. Those voters that value pro-life issues über alles will gripe, briefly, before Rice grows wings and flies like an angel when compared to the legislative priorities of the Obama White House.
“She worked for George Bush for eight years,” Erickson continues. “In those eight years at National Security and then at State, our relations with Russia deteriorated though she was an expert in that field.”
Nonsense. Did Erickson suppose that Rice could have parachuted into the Kremlin and forced Russia’s leadership to abort what has been their historical predilection to balance against the preeminent power of the day all on her own? Russia has been a balancing power for the last 300 years. First they balanced against France as St. Petersburg sought to join the ranks of great European powers, and later they balanced against Great Britain than Germany and finally the United States. But for the historical aberration that immediately followed the collapse of the Soviet Union – where the Kremlin was forced to cooperate with the West out of financial necessity – Russia has had a consistent foreign policy of serving as a persistent thorn in the side of the regional/global hegemon.
Even today, Moscow is doing its best to protract the civil war in Syria – sending armaments to the Bashar al-Assad government and blocking any consensus on the international community’s course of action to halt the bloodletting. There is no better person to manage the U.S. response to the threat that Moscow is determined to pose in the 21st Century than the former Sovietologist, Dr. Rice.
Erickson is not alone in his objections to Rice from the right. AllahPundit at HotAir posted an extensive list of the political liabilities that a Rice nomination poses to the Romney ticket. One, she is pro-choice. Two, she is closely affiliated with the Bush administration. Three, her choice opens Romney up to liberal criticisms that she has been chosen for either her race or her gender to appeal to demography.
Having already dealt with the pro-choice issue, let’s tackle her links to the Bush administration. This may be her largest political liability. More Americans continue to blame Bush for the persistent economic crisis than Obama – though that is steadily changing. Rice is not, however, associated with Bush’s domestic but foreign policy. Furthermore, should Romney’s team really be that averse to reminding voters of the trajectory the nation was on during the “bad old days” of the Bush administration when the U.S. was adding, in 2004 and 2005, more than 350,000 jobs per month in certain cases. Is it a liability to remind voters how a a 2006 report that showed an average of just 160,000 jobs were being created per month inspired shrieks of horror from the left, but today’s recovery, which produces half that number, is characterized as a step in the “right direction?” That doesn’t seem like much of a liability to me.
As for her gender and race, and the inevitable cries from liberals that Rice was brought on board purely to attract a persuadable black and single female voter, that’s not something that could be avoided. But I say let them make that charge. It only highlights how the Democratic left cannot see beyond Dr. Rice’s race and gender to her stellar qualifications and extensive background in public service. Polls show that her favorability ratings rival those of Hillary Clinton’s, and she appeals uniquely to independent voters. She would appeal to a small slice of those voting blocs, although not enough to offset the President’s advantage in those groups. Nevertheless, in a close election that could certainly make a difference.
Rice is no politician – she is actually averse to game playing that characterizes national politics. For that reason alone, I think she will not be the VP choice. If there is any one qualification required to run for president that rises above all others, it is that the individual must have the unqualified desire to want the job. Rice does not want the gig. But it is for that reason that she would also make a great vice president and, for that matter, president. A policy wonk with a deep and abiding knowledge of how government functions at the highest levels, she is uniquely qualified to be the nation’s chief executive.
Of course, it must be said that Rice’s nomination is highly unlikely. The criticisms that the leak to Drudge that started the speculation around Rice is an attempt by the Romney campaign to change the subject from his tenure at Bain Capital. But it would be a welcome development if Rice was chosen to be Romney’s running mate. With a deep and exciting bench of Republican talent eligible for the job, Rice rises to the top. She would make a great choice.
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