Clinton versus Rice? Have a heart!

If any single topic best demonstrates the irrelevance of televised political punditry, it is the artificial buzz about a 2008 presidential race between Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice...

 

Deeper issues are often submerged in the media, but the after-dinner politics surrounding the 08 elections have regularly been mooted in public time. So it might be a good idea to take a look at the nonexistent chances of Senator Clinton or 'Hillary' and National Security Advisor 'Condi', as they are often referred to, starting with Mrs Clinton.

Many attacks on Hillary Clinton have been appalling. Some jokes are nothing but thinly-veiled calls for bringing her into harm, attacks in which some media outlets have been inexcusably complicit. Obviously some individuals out there, who tend to have a strange fondness for violent language, obscenity, and remote-control aggression via email, can barely tolerate the notion of a woman in public life, but the news media need not pander to unhealed rigidities.

But the fact that she has borne unjust attacks does not mean that Mrs Clinton has done a good job of standing up for the public. She has not. She could have voted against the war resolution. She did not. She could have helped build her party from the grassroots, during the eight years her husband was in the White House. She did not. She could have spoken out against the illegal invasion of another country. She could have defended congressional investigators and others attacked by the administration.

It is thus all the more grating to hear Mrs Clinton labelled as either liberal or feminist by media propagandists. Hillary Clinton was probably a capable law student at Yale, but her law career in Arkansas was as the wife of the governor.

That said, now take a look at the academic career of Condoleezza Rice. There is a proud boast on the website of the Hoover Institution, the ultra-rightwing think tank ensconced at Stanford University, that Rice started college at the age of 15.

What the website does not mention is that Rice began college classes at the University of Denver when her father was briefly Assistant Director of Admissions there.

According to the university, Mr Rice moved from the Admissions office that year to another position with the institution. Perhaps someone noticed that coincidentally one of the few minority students at DU had a dad in admissions. In any case, Rice started college at 15, before graduating from high school, without having been a child prodigy and more importantly without having taken the SATs or the ACT.

She similarly switched from a major in concert piano in her first two years to a major in political science because, she has said, she could complete it in two years. Her studies did not include, among other subjects, American History. Application for graduate school, mostly at Denver, was again facile.

Who paid her grad school tuition is unknown; her stint in grad school included an internship with the Rand Corporation and a trip to the Soviet Union, paid for by whom left 'unstated'. With a new PhD, while thousands of other PhDs were competing for hundreds (or dozens) of jobs, Rice went to a position at Stanford via the Hoover think tank, which appointed her a Fellow. Her initial teaching load is unspecified; after a year she joined the Stanford faculty through an affirmative action program.

Switching to the Republican Party in 1982, she worked closely with state and national political figures in the GOP, serving in a failed effort by then-Governor Pete Wilson to redistrict California in the 1980s. In 1993 she was promoted to Full Professor at Stanford, on the basis of extensive service (in the first Bush administration) but scant publication and limited teaching, by a university president who fast-tracked her. Incidentally, this professor got his presidency after the previous Stanford president was ousted as the result of some damaging information.

More recently, Rice was National Security Adviser on 9/11, not on its face a resume brightener, and was promoted to Secretary of State after the greater credibility of Colin Powell threatened the White House. Her deputy, Stephen Hadley, now National Security Adviser, was one of the chief movers behind the Iraq war.

Corporate pundits are probably using Rice and Clinton largely to discourage public participation in democracy. But it could boomerang on them. A Clinton-Rice match-up would do wonders for third parties.