Condi Would Make Biden Debate Worth Watching

Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012 10:18 AM

By Susan Estrich

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Blame Drudge. That's what some Republicans I know are saying.

Sure, Condoleezza Rice brought down the house at the recent big-money Romney retreat in Utah. Sure, Dick Morris was saying years ago that she would be the best Republican candidate for president.

rice.jpg
Former Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice.
(Getty Images)
But how dare Matt Drudge suggest that Condi was on Mitt Romney's VP list — along with all those guys no one has ever heard of such as Tim Pawlenty and Rob Portman. And how dare he, in suggesting it, make it so.

Oh, yes, she's smart and charismatic, more experienced in national security than all of them (plus Romney) combined, and uniquely able to change the dynamic of the election among women and minorities. Oh, yes, she would make a debate with Joe Biden worth watching. Actually, she would be the only one of the group who could go toe-to-toe (and then some) with Biden on national security.

But get serious: She's pro-choice!

Frankly, as a Democrat, I can't help but feel relieved at the outpouring of shock and horror among conservative Republicans at the suggestion that Romney would choose Rice as his running mate. Thank goodness Sarah Palin (Here I am praising Palin; it is a strange day.) seems to be the only one of the crowd who can get past her (right) knee-jerk reaction to see the brilliance of such a choice.

Condi is the only one of the boys (OK, to be accurate, the only one who is not one of the boys) I can see appealing across party lines, convincing swing voters that Romney really is a moderate and not some risky right-winger, changing the subject from how many jobs Romney outsourced to how his election could make history.

Most vice-presidential choices change nothing. Most of the time, that's the whole idea: Do no harm. Choose someone whose greatest moment of prominence is the day before their selection is announced, and then let them fly off into the sunset to launch grenades and raise money. The easiest way to ensure this is to choose someone who ran for president themselves. That way, you know that whatever dirt they have in their life has already come out and is therefore old news.

The worst choices, obviously, are the ones where it turns out there are things you didn't know about your No. 2 — things like electroshock treatment (poor Tom Eagleton, a very good man who got picked and bounced in 1972) or a shaky draft record and problems with spelling (Dan Quayle in 1988). Of course, Quayle didn't cost Bush that election any more than the later-convicted Spiro T. Agnew cost Richard Nixon the presidency. But bad choices are a distraction (at best) and reflect negatively on the judgment of the candidate who made them.

The most dangerous choices are the Hail Mary passes. Think Palin. In fairness, her mistakes were not really her fault. She had no business being chosen in the first place. She was supposed to rescue John McCain, which is too much to ask of any No. 2.

Romney doesn't need a Hail Mary pass. The polls are close. That's one of the reasons the people around him will be telling him to pick a safe, nondescript white guy who will be forgotten moments later. At the same time, a betting woman would still bet on President Obama. And Rice is no Palin. She has spent her career in the line of fire and in the public eye, and she handles herself with intelligence and grace at all times.

The only good reason not to pick Condi Rice is that her selection would revive issues about the Iraq invasion. If that were the reason Republicans were worried, I'd understand. It isn't.

Years ago, the late Lee Atwater said that the Republican Party had to be a "big tent" when it came to the abortion issue. If that tent is not big enough to include one of the most talented and exciting women in American politics, then the truth is that it is still too small. And so are those who are blocking its expansion.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author whose writings have appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, and she has been a commentator on countless TV news programs. Read more reports from Susan Estrich — Click Here Now.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

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