Are John McCain and Condoleezza Rice a Republican match made in heaven?
Monday, May 26th 2008
If after all the dust settles Barack Obama is chosen as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, what better choice could John McCain make than to select Condoleezza Rice as his running mate? Think of the advantages it would bring.
As secretary of state, Dr. Rice occupies a very high profile position. Few can deny her talents and accomplishments.
Secretary Rice has a Ph.D in political science from the University of Denver in Russian studies; she is fluent in Russian and competent speaker of several other languages; she has written or co-authored several books on the then Soviet Union; as an academic, she rose to become provost of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., one of the country's most universities.
As a professor, Condi Rice caught the eye of one of the first President Bush's top advisers, Brent Snowcroft. She was mentored by other members of the Republican establishment and began her career as a White House aide.
When George W. Bush was running for president, she served as his foreign policy adviser and developed a close relationship with him and his family. She is a Bush loyalist, faithfully defending his policies, including the decision to go to war in Iraq.
Beginning as Bush's National Security adviser, she was appointed secretary of State in 2005, following the resignation of Colin Powell. She has handled this high-level assignment with the aplomb she brought to all of her other steps up the ladder. She is not easily ruffled, as her appearance before the 9/11 Commission made clear.
Condoleezza Rice was born in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 14, 1954. She was well aware, even at an early age, of the indignities of segregation and racism. One of her friends, Denise McNair, was killed in the vicious church bombing in July 1963 - one of four little girls killed in the church basement. The dramatic events of the civil rights movement swirled all around her.
However, the reaction of her parents was not to adopt activism, but to advise their daughter to overcome prejudice by excelling in all her endeavors. They paid for ballet and figure skating lessons and she was so adept musically that at one point she considered a career as a concert pianist.
Like Sen. Barack Obama, she made her way transcending racial definitions. But unlike Obama, with his international upbringing, she is was rooted in the traditional African-American experience.
So why would she be on John McCain's short list? In addition to her obvious qualifications, there is the matter of race, not to mention gender and age. As the primary campaign has made clear, America is far from a post-racial society. An Obama candidacy will have to deal with that unpleasant reality. By nominating an African American, the Republicans cannot only shield themselves from the accusation that they are attacking Obama for hidden racial reasons; they might even cut into his strong support among African American voters.
An additional bonus is that the GOP would have a woman on the ballot, creating an appeal for a group that in the past has leaned toward the Democratic side. Finally, a Rice candidacy could help alleviate concern about McCain's age. While he is grandfatherly 72, she is a youthful appearing 54.
There are other benefits to a Rice vice presidential nomination. She has strong ties to the Bush family and the Republican establishment. The maverick McCain needs to shore up his support in this area. She also agrees with him on Iraq, bound to be a central issue in the election. She also has very strong national security credentials that add to what McCain views as his special strength.
As the Republican convention approaches and speculation grows about McCain's running mate, expect Rice's name to appear on the V.P. list - especially if Obama is the Democrat's choice.
If she is chosen, then history will be made one way or the other. We will have either the first African-American president or the first African-American - and female - vice president.
What an interesting election this could be!
Dr. Paul Leary, a University of the Virgin Islands professor emeritus, is a contributing columnist for The Daily News.