Rumors of Mass Distraction: Why Condi Rice Would Be an Awful VP Choice

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Two of America's least reliable pundits say she's Mitt Romney's top choice.

condoleeza rice full.jpg
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Two years before Matt Drudge got famous telling the world that Bill Clinton was carrying on with Monica Lewinsky, the Drudge Report proprietor quietly beat the journalistic establishment to a less remembered scoop: he was first to report that candidate Bob Dole would run with Jack Kemp. In subsequent years, The Drudge Report has frequently led its readers astray. Its VP predictions in particular have been lackluster. Many outlets are nevertheless picking up its latest headline:

CONDI EMERGES AS FRONTRUNNER

And Drudge isn't alone in saying so.

In 2008, Bill Kristol correctly predicted that John McCain would choose Sarah Palin as his running-mate. Overall, Kristol makes hilariously inaccurate political predictions with stunning frequency

Now he too is making headlines by predicting Rice's selection. So ask yourself this, people of America: Could two unreliable gossips with a penchant for misleading their readers both be wrong?

I'd rather mock the inaccurate bygone predictions of others than issue one of my own, so let's just say that, whether it happens or not, Rice would bring certain liabilities to any ticket she joined -- and that if this Drudge story is a trial balloon, Team Romney would do well to ponder those liabilities:

1) The Republican campaign strategy of mentioning George W. Bush as little as possible would be jeopardized by choosing a figure best known for the controversial role she played helping to shape his foreign policy.

2) Rice championed the disastrous, unpopular war in Iraq, and inaccurately insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, as in this memorable New York Times op-ed "Why We Know Iraq Is Lying."

3) The 9/11 attacks were hardly her fault. On the other hand, she was the National Security Adviser who didn't react quickly enough to terrorism warnings to prevent the most devastating attack on the American homeland since Pearl Harbor, which isn't a point in favor on her resume.

4) She was personally complicit in torture.

5) Social conservatives would revolt at a pro-choice candidate on the ticket.

Summing things up, Daniel Larison put it this way:

Rice did a lousy job as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, and she has the unusual distinction of being distrusted and disliked by many neoconservatives, most realists, and all non-interventionists in almost equal measure. She is closely associated with an administration that was widely regarded as incompetent in the conduct of foreign policy, and she helped to craft one of the least successful foreign policy records of any postwar administration. Those are her qualifications in the area in which she is considered an expert.

On everything else, her policy views are either out of step with the majority of her party or unknown, and she has never run for office at any level. Romney certainly needs someone to make up for his lack of foreign policy experience and knowledge, but Rice would be one of the worst conceivable people to have in that role.

Observing that Peggy Noonan has just lauded Rice for being a woman of "obvious and nameable accomplishment," Larison added:

Which accomplishment would that be? Completely failing to do a competent job as National Security Adviser? Presiding over the worst period of U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War? Facilitating Hamas' takeover of Gaza? Advising Bush as he embarked on one of the greatest debacles of post-WWII U.S. foreign policy? Helping to shape one of the most disastrous foreign policy records of modern times? Take your pick. No one can take any of that away from her.

These real and perceived shortcomings are presumably sufficient to totally sink her chances, which is probably what has happened, though in a world where Sarah Palin was the last GOP vice-presidential nominee, a choice the conservative base still defends, who knows what unexpectedly poor decision will next issue from the party, which still doesn't acknowledge the foreign policy failures of the Bush era. Odds are Condi Rice won't be chosen (odds are almost always overwhelmingly against a given individual). But if she is the nominee it will be a profound demonstration of the skewed view GOP elites have of what counts as a foreign policy debacle.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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