There’s been a lot of speculation today about whether Condoleezza Rice might be a list-topper for Romney’s veepstakes. The idea of her being the VP is not new – polls were released as early as April indicating she was a favorite among voters – but this much speculation made my ears perk up.
It all started when the Drudge Report released an “exclusive” report last night that Romney has narrowed his choices and Condi was among them. As these things tend to do, it all snowballed from there.
I’m not going to pretend I know what is going through Mitt Romney’s head. Anyone who speculates on this man’s largely bland campaign is probably kidding themselves. He’s literally not made a single decision or policy specification since he hopped onto the campaign trail with his GAP-commercial-quality family. How could anyone possibly know what he’s going to do next?
I will however, throw out some thinking points, because Rice would be an interesting choice from both sides. She’s a scholarly, accomplished policy wonk that would probably force Romney to put out a specific policy agenda – good news for the GOP (and well, everyone). But she’s also haunted by her long service for a widely reviled administration and a war that is considered a failure.
A lot of people are going around ranting about how Condi would be a great choice because she’s black and she’s a woman. I think that totally misses the point, and completely takes for granted that she’s actually accomplished things.
Juan Williams at Fox News makes the point, which I think is spot on, that if she were to be chosen, it couldn’t be viewed solely as “racial tokenism.” She’s just done too much for people to assume she was only chosen because she is black, or – in my opinion – because she’s a woman.
The same could not be said for the only other woman commonly considered to be on the shortlist, Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte has only been in the Senate since last year, and before that served for five years as New Hampshire’s attorney general. While she is clearly vying for the slot, if she gets the gig it won’t be because of her long-standing record or her immense qualifications.
Rice’s past – however high-ranking and impressive – is also a huge burden. There’s not a lot I can say here that you don’t already know: Everyone still really doesn’t like George W. Bush (contrary to those ubiquitous “Miss me yet?” pieces of paraphernalia that have found their way to back-country convenient stores everywhere), and everyone is still really pissed off about the Iraq War. Rice had a huge hand in both of those.
Though, on a side note, Condi’s involvement on Romney’s foreign policy may not make much of a difference. The Nation recently reported that 70% of Romney’s 40 identified foreign policy advisors were on staff with Bush, so he’ll probably end up with Bush-era policies regardless of whether he let’s Rice on board.
And while a lot of Republicans will be happy on face about Condi’s nomination because she happens to be pro-gun, for the Keystone Pipeline, against gay marriage and an open evangelical Christian, her stances on abortion and immigration might be a distraction.
Rice has long been opposed to refusing a woman’s right to abortions. While this will infuriate the Christian right, it might bring a little bit of comfort to independents to know that they have a strong-spined VP even if the president is all-too wishy washy. And (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Sarah Palin talked a lot of sense today on Fox News.
“I would certainly prefer a presidential and vice presidential candidate who had that respect for all innocent, precious purposeful human life and showed that respect via being a pro-life candidate,” she said. “We need to remember, though, that it’s not the vice president that would legislate abortion, and that would be Congress’s role. And we’ll keep that in mind.”
Her stance on immigration – which has long opposed end-run measures like those in Arizona for states to round up illegal immigrants on their own – would also be a little bit of a refresher for independents, and may help Romney court Hispanics – something he’s largely been unsuccessful at so far.
When Rubio was widely considered the inevitable pick, it was because he would attract Hispanics. Now that a lot of folks are saying he’s too green, Condoleezza might fit the mold rather well.
In the end, though, as much as this back and forth about her pros and cons may not matter (because she probably doesn’t even want to be VP), it’s nice that she actually has pros and cons. The other people being thrown around in this race are so boring that it actually takes sustained effort for me to keep giving a crap.
Perhaps this is exactly what the 2012 race needs.