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Friday, December 03, 2004

"What Did We Do to Deserve Condoleezza Rice?"

Asks the title of Sheldon Richman's FFF article. That is, in my opinion, not a bad question to ask. But before I address it allow me to make a couple of side points.

When I am faced with the task of assessing a political or furthermore an executive official I prefer to spend as little time as possible furthering any purely political agenda but instead to assess that official's qualifications and credentials, concentrating purely on the their aptitude for, and performance in, the office in which they serve, or for which they are being considered. I also prefer to stay way from analyzing their private lives aside from where an obvious interference with the individual's ability to perform the duties of office may arise. Let us try to apply this method of analysis to our Secretary of State nominee, Condoleezza Rice.

Here's how Richman begins his article:

Is this a great country or what? Thanks to President George W. Bush, we will now have the first secretary of state who once had an oil tanker named after her. No kidding. Chevron put Condoleezza Rice’s name on a tanker when she served on its board of directors, from which she resigned just before the 2001 inauguration. Chevron later changed the name, and President Bush appointed her national security advisor.

But that factoid is overshadowed by her career since moving from Chevron’s board. Does she deserve this career move? Set aside her lack of experience as a diplomat. Except for some time spent as provost of Stanford University, before her government appointments she was a specialist in Russian studies. I presume one can learn diplomatic skills on the job. Also set aside her weak management skills, which were manifest during her tenure as national security advisor. One might pick up those skills as the head of the State Department.

But can she learn to tell the truth to the American people? Her record is not encouraging.

Rice was one of the key administration people in the massive deception campaign leading up to the invasion of Iraq, which continues to cost the lives of countless Iraqis. (The U.S. government refuses to keep count.) More than once Rice stood before the American people and blatantly lied to them. On at least one occasion the White House acknowledged that she fell down on a crucial job.

It was Rice who told us shortly after the 9/11 attacks that she and the rest of the national security apparatus never dreamed that al-Qaeda would ever fly airplanes into buildings. We learned later that the CIA had warned of this. She also said she was unaware that the CIA doubted that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from the African country Niger. The CIA had made its doubts more than obvious and had even gotten Bush to remove the claim from a speech. That was before he used it in his state of the Union address, although the claim was no more solid then.

So, in short, we've got somebody who is not only known to be marginally competent for the job she is being nominated for, but also is known to bend the truth if not lie outright. On top of that, the way in which she communicated the statements that we now know were not true makes it clear, almost, in my opinion, comically clear that only two possibilities existed at the time those statements were originally made: either the person making them was lying, or she was hopelessly incompetent to occupy the office she at the time occupied,- that of the National Security Advisor.

Let us just consider one instance,- Rice's statement after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 to the effect that such attacks could not even have been imagined. Saying that some 50 years after the technique of using an airplane as a bomb was massively employed by the Japanese Air Force in WWII and some six years after Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing attack, admitted to having considered the same technique for attacking US Government buildings would, in my opinion, be tantamount to one's admission to ignorance of the relevant national security history,- essentially, the sort of ignorance that is likely to disqualify one from performing the duties of that office.

Says Richman,
Some years ago Laurence Peter formulated the Peter Principle: “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” If Rice is confirmed as secretary of state, Dr. Peter’s principle will have to be revised.

The question is not, “Does she deserve it?” No. The question is, “Do we?”

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