Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rice for VP? Failure Has Its Rewards, Apparently

On Friday night, as I sat in Yankee Stadium on a beautiful night for baseball, despite the insistence of the weather professionals that rain was imminent (it never came), I said to my friend, "Being a meteorologist is one of two jobs in America where you can be consistently wrong and still keep your job. The other is President of the United States."

With the abject failures of the Bush administration taken as a given by the majority of the electorate now, it amazes me that, if you believe media reports, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is a serious candidate to be John McCain's running mate. (Two sample stories can be found here and here.)

As one of the few Bush cronies to actually make it through the entire run of his disastrous presidency, I am shocked that anybody would say to themselves, "Now, who would be a good person to put in front of the American people and ask for their trust for the next four years? Hey! What about the right-hand woman to George W. Bush?"

Let's face it: Judged on competency and results, Bush and Rice would have been fired a long time ago from 99 percent of the jobs in America. It makes me wonder what it would look like if Rice had to go through a standard job interview, the way most Americans must when applying for work:

"Secretary Rice. Thanks for coming in. Did you find parking okay?"

"My driver dropped me off, so ..."

"Right. Sit down. Please."

"Thank you. Here is my resume."

"I have a copy already, thanks. My staff says this Internet thing is really handy."

"Yes, I'll have to try using it some time."

"So, Madame Secretary, it says here that you were the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from January 2001 to January 2005."

"That's correct."

"Okay, tell me a bit about your responsibilities."

"Well, that was my formal title. Most people refer to me as the National Security Advisor. It's a very important job. I was the president's chief advisor on security issues."

"Great. Now, if I remember correctly, that was a tumultuous time."

"Yes, we were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001."

"I remember, of course. Just so I understand, you were the National Security Advisor when we were attacked."

"Yes, Senator, but in my defense, how could anyone have known something like that would occur?"

"Well, didn't the CIA have intelligence that Osama bin Laden was planning an attack?"

"Yes, Senator, but as i explained when I testified in front of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the indication was that the attacks would be in Europe."

"Yes. But Madame Secretary, and I don't want to be rude here, but didn't CIA Director George Tenet write in his August 6, 2001 President's Daily Briefing that there was a threat from bin Laden for an attack on the U.S.?"

"Yes, Senator, but there are so many briefings ..."

"Again, I don't want to be rude, but wasn't the briefing called, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US," and didn't it talk about hijackings?"

"Again, Senator, so many briefings. Who could have known that this one was so serious?"

"Well, Madame Secretary, didn't a CIA officer fly to President Bush's ranch to tell him about the report, because it was so serious?"

"I don't recall, Senator."

"This fellow at Slate.com seems to think that you were a bit of an embarrassment in your handling of the bin Laden briefing and in your testimony to the commission. I'm not sure what Slate.com is, but my aides tell me lots of liberals read it."

"There you go, Senator. Are you going to believe the rantings of some left-wing radicals? Fox News said I did a great job."

"Okay, let's move on. I believe the Iraq War began during the time you were President Bush's National Security Advisor."

"Yes Senator."

"And all of the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be wrong."

"I was fooled just like the president was. And really, my job is to report the intelligence findings. I wasn't in charge of the CIA."

"And the lack of planning and mismanagement that resulted in a five-year-and-counting quagmire in Iraq?"

"Again, not my department. That was Don Rumsfeld's purview. And he lost his job for it, while I was promoted. So, there you go, I must be blameless, right?"

"But, just to be clear, and, again, I mean no disrespect, but you were the chief security advisor to the president at a time when we were attacked, and when we stumbled into one of the worst planned occupations of the last 100 years."

"Sure, but, again, none of it was my fault."

"Okay. Moving on. You were made Secretary of State in January of 2005. How have our diplomatic relationships been going since then?"

"I think very good."

"You do. Well, how does the world look at our efforts in Iraq?"

"They're coming around."

"Actually, they're not."

"They will. And besides, running the war is not my department. Again, Don Rumsfeld ..."

"Yes, I know, he was fired after the Democrats took back Congress in November 2006 based primarily about anger over the war."

"There are many interpretations for any election result ..."

"Maybe. But not this time. And Katrina?"

"Again, not my ..."

"Department. I get it."

"The shoddy treatment of veterans, condoning torture, the disappearance of billions of dollars unaccounted for in Iraq, the contractors like Blackwater lawlessly running wild while taking in huge profits, the loss of focus on Afghanistan, skyrocketing oil prices, ignoring global warming, deteriorating relationships with Russia and Europe, failures to address the changes in the world brought about by the rise of the Chinese, skyrocketing food prices, the subprime mortgage scandal, numerous government failures in areas ranging from mining to product safety, illegal wiretapping, the demise of habeas corpus, and a crashing economy. All while you were a top officer of the Bush administration."

"And all outside of my department."

"Do you have any accomplishment you can point to during your last three-plus years as Secretary of State?"

"Well ... hmmm ... I met with the Israelis and Palestinians a bunch of times to get them to agree to a peace deal."

"Did they?"

"Not yet."

"Okay. Anything else?"

"Absolutely. Wow, I'm drawing a blank. No idea why. Can I send you a follow-up memo later?"

"Sure. So let me sum this all up, Madame Secretary. On your watch, the U.S. was hit with the worst terrorist attack in its history, even though you had a memo specifically warning of such an attack a month before. Then, the U.S. invaded Iraq based on bad intelligence, and proceeded to botch the occupation through a potent mixture of incompetence, arrogance and poor planning. You were the president's chief advisor on security matters during this time, and during this time, nearly nothing was accomplished, while great damage was done to the nation. Colin Powell fled the administration after Bush's first term because he was so aghast at how things were handled, and yet you were promoted into his position, where you serve to this day. And you can't point to a single accomplishment during your term as Secretary of State. Lots of bad things happened on your watch, but none of it was your fault. Do I have that about right?"

"I wouldn't quite phrase it like that, but ..."

"Thank you for coming in Madame Secretary. We'll be in touch."

"Did I get the job?"

"How can I put this politely? I'd ask my driver to be my running mate before you."

Alas, that interview will never happen. It gives way too much credit to McCain, who was lockstep with Bush nearly every step of the way of his failed administration.

It would seem that Rice would make the McCain ticket even more vulnerable to "four more years of Bush" attacks, which is McCain's main weakness in November. Personally, I will be shocked if she is the choice, mainly because of how unpopular Bush is with the American people. But if Bush's win in 2004 proves anything, it's that the U.S. electorate is capable of electing just about anyone. I only wish someone would put Rice through the interview the American people deserve.

And if all else fails, Rice can become a weather forecaster. She's already proven she can be consistently wrong. Does Stanford have a meteorology program?