National Review Editor Rich Lowry has come to the defense of embattled Condoleezza Rice after hundreds of students and professors protested her planned speeches at two universities.
In a commentary for Politico
, Lowry called for an end to the "hounding" and "harassment" of the former secretary of state due to her involvement in the alleged torture of prisoners during the Iraq war under the George W. Bush administration.
"Condi Rice is not a natural lightning rod," Lowry wrote. "She’s such a disreputable figure that she’s on the board of the Kennedy Center and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. She’s such a lightweight that she’s a Stanford University professor. She’s such a yahoo that she once accompanied Yo Ma on the piano."
Lowry added: "The mob nonetheless believes that her due punishment for serving the wrong administration in the wrong cause should be her banishment from the company of any person or institution who disagrees with her."
Rice is due to take part in a lecture series at the University of Minnesota Thursday night to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and on May 18 she will give the commencement address at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
About 200 faculty members in Minnesota
signed a letter asking
for her invitation to be withdrawn while condemning Rice for her part in "substantial violations of civil liberties and civil rights that were carried out in the name of prosecuting the War on Terror."
"As National Security Adviser…Dr. Rice played a central role in the design and implementation of the Administration's policies, which legitimized the use of torture," said the letter, which also balked at the $150,000 speaking fee.
But Lowry hit back at the suggestion she was "unfit" to give a civil rights lecture.
"What would give anyone the idea that a woman who was the nation’s first female African-American secretary of state, whose grandfather was the son of a sharecropper, who experienced Jim Crow first-hand during her childhood in Alabama, who was friends with one of the girls killed in the Birmingham Church bombing, whose parents instilled in her an ethic of striving despite the hatred around her would have anything relevant to say about civil rights?"
Last month, the Faculty Council at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus asked the New Jersey state university to yank its invitation for Rice to deliver its commencement speech
. A history professor also circulated a petition to ban Rice from giving the address.
Rice also came under fire last week after it was announced by the file-sharing company Dropbox that she would be joining the company's board of directors.
A petition called Drop-Dropbox, which was widely circulated
in California’s Silicon Valley, claimed that her support of warrantless wiretapping runs counter to the company's commitment to user privacy.
Noting that "the hounding of Rice" goes back to Bush’s national security policy, Lowry said the Iraq war "wouldn’t have happened if Congress hadn’t voted for it, and if particular, key Democrats hadn’t lent it bipartisan support."
He continued, "The legality and wisdom of this Bush policy — and many others — is certainly open to debate. But Rice’s critics aren’t interested in argument. They are offended by Rice’s very presence.
"As usual with the contemporary left, her harassment is about narrowing the range of respectability so as to limit the parameters of political debate. This time, it is failing. The leaders of the University of Minnesota, Rutgers and Dropbox have refused to dump Rice. In today’s context, their stalwartness almost qualifies as a courageous act of conscience."
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