Republican diners haven’t yet picked their entree, but they’ve narrowed it down to the steak or the fish. Still, just as interesting as their main course will be their side selection: Will they go for a drab salad, or something more exciting? Maybe a spicy Rice dish?
Yes, that Rice: Condi. She’s rested and ready - and buff.
America’s first black female secretary of state is quietly positioning herself to be the top choice of the eventual Republican presidential nominee, ready to deliver bona fide foreign-policy credentials lacking among the candidates. The 56-year-old has recently raised her profile, releasing her memoir in November and embarking on a monthlong book tour.
After 2 1/2 years as a professor at Stanford, Miss Rice is reportedly getting “antsy” to get back into the political game. “She’s ready to go,” said one top source.
Ready indeed. She still rises at 5:30 a.m. and runs through a vigorous P90X workout. (Her guns are now a match for those of first lady Michelle Obama.) Sure, she’s been playing a lot of golf, and no doubt banging on the piano (sometimes with cellist Yo-Yo Ma), but she’s clearly ready for more.
Her addition to the ticket, which wouldn’t come until late next summer, would dramatically change the dynamics of the 2012 election. As a black woman - her family has roots in the Deep South stretching back to before Civil War era, and worked as sharecroppers after emancipation - she would mute Democrats’ charges of racism among conservatives, especially tea party members. And her sex would likely prompt moderate women to take a serious look at the Republican ticket.
Plus, her selection would be a giant chess move to counter the expected replacement of Vice President Joseph R. Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sure, the White House denies and denies, but that should really make any political watcher more suspicious. One White House insider even told me that the position swap was the only reason Mrs. Clinton joined the administration in the first place.
Unlike 2008, when Miss Rice repeatedly played down all suggestions that she might like to join the Republican ticket as the vice presidential candidate, she is actively staying mum, while quietly encouraging speculation that she is ready to run.
Clearly, the 2012 election is shaping up to be all about the U.S. economy. Everything Mr. Obama has tried has failed, so American voters are looking for someone who can actually fix the problems. But what the Republican presidential hopefuls lack is foreign-policy experience.
Cue Miss Rice. With Vladimir Putin set to reascend to the Russian presidency, the Soviet scholar is perfectly suited for what’s coming next.
Of course, like any black conservative (see Cain, Herman), she is mostly reviled in the black liberal community. In the midst of the Bush administration, Eugene Robinson, a columnist for The Washington Post, asked, “How did she come to a worldview so radically different from that of most black Americans?” Funny thing is, she is, unlike Barack Obama, an “American black.”
And Miss Rice, in her inimitable way, had a response. “Why would I worry about something like that?” she said about the criticism. “The fact of the matter is I’ve been black all my life. Nobody needs to tell me how to be black.”
The White House, through its Chicago mafia, was intent on taking out Mr. Cain. Unfortunately, he proved an easy target. But they were clearly frightened by a strong American black, even as a veep candidate. And yes, it won’t be Mr. Cain - he is completely done.
But imagine the debate, whether it’s against Mr. Biden or Mrs. Clinton: Miss Rice would bring a huge resume - not to mention a real understanding of the world, on which top Democrats seem to clueless. Talk to Iran? Um, maybe not. Negotiate with Mr. Putin: Been tried, doesn’t work. And all issues of race would be moot.
There are a few other women available as down-ticket choices: Rep. Michele Bachmann will certainly be considered, as will Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor who last week endorsed Mitt Romney. But nearly no one on the Republican side - man or woman - can deliver what Miss Rice can. And while you haven’t yet heard her name when the political pundits tick off the top tier of vice-presidential players, you’re about to. Starting today.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.