Condoleezza Rice Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
By Joy-Ann Reid
W. Bush's vaunted National Security Advisor was his tutor
during his "sobering up for politics years," readying her
charge for the White House by teaching him to pronounce the
names of countries he'd never been to, and to sound like he
knew the history of this one well enough not to repeat the
bad parts. She's the most powerful woman in the administration
(since Karen Hughes fled for Texas). She's even got an oil
tanker named after her.
These days, Rice has gone from head teacher to chief spinmeister.
She's dispatched to the Sunday chat shows whenever there's
a credibility dust-up. And when the going gets really tough,
it's her job to find a way to blame Bill Clinton.
Lately, Rice has been displaying another quality: dispatch.
She ruthlessly heaved CIA director George Tenet over the bow,
apparently for not throwing his body between George W. Bush
and those 16 words somebody put into his State of the Union
address. Never mind that it was Tenet's CIA that the "Unknowable"
Donald Rumsfeld cast aside for not being bullish enough on
invading Iraq. Or that it was Tenet who insisted the Nigerian
yellowcake references be deleted from an October speech given
by the president (who apparently just reads whatever's in
front of him.) Or that those 16 words included one - "nuclear"
- that ratcheted up the supposed threat posed by Saddam Hussein
about 100 notches in the psyches of many Americans.
Rice would have us believe the inclusion of the Africa line
was a wee mistake, like pronouncing "nuclear" as "nucular"
(maybe that's Bush's out ... he didn't say "nuclear" at all!)
But it was deliberately added to a speech meant to sober Americans
up for the urgent necessity of war. It was no throwaway line.
Still, Rice is doing her best to make Tenet take the fall
(or the British, or if that doesn't work, cue Bill Clinton).
Now, she and Georgious Caesar have imperiously declared the
But if Rice is good at spinning for her former tutee, she
isn't so hot at covering her own mistakes.
It was Rice, who declared after 9/11, "I don't think anybody
could have predicted that these people would take an airplane
and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one
and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use
an airplane as a missile." Turns out she had been briefed
by her predecessor about precisely that threat from al-Qaida
against key sites in the United States, and against the G8
summit in Genoa - which Bush attended, sleeping aboard a Navy
carrier instead of a comfy Italian hotel - in July 2001. And
a 1999 report by the National Intelligence Council warned
that al-Qaida terrorists could crash an airplane full of explosives
into the Pentagon.
Then there's the January, 2001 report by a national security
commission chaired by former senators Gary Hart and Warren
Rudman. (It was the Hart-Rudman commission, tasked by Bill
Clinton to come up with a 21st century security strategy for
the U.S. - and not George W. Bush - that originally proposed
creating a Department of Homeland Security. The Bush team
shelved its recommendations before 9/11.) Hart pleaded with
the Bush administration to take the al-Qaida threat seriously
throughout the spring and summer of 2001, with Hart even meeting
personally with Rice just one week before the Twin Towers
It was Rice who, along with Vice President Dick Cheney,
assured Americans that Bush hadn't gone into hiding in the
early hours after 9/11, when then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
effectively became the nation's Commander-in-Chief. Condi
claimed the president was routed away from Washington because
of credible threats to Air Force One. That turned out to be
It was Rice who responded to the attempted coup against
duly elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by warning Chavez
to learn from the lesson in Democracy. "The world is watching,"
Rice scolded the newly-restored leader, after which she was
promptly scolded by news outlets the world over, for apparently
not understanding how the democratic process works.
It was also Rice who last October contacted NBC, ABC, CBS,
Fox and CNN to "suggest" that they edit any audio or videotapes
attributed to Osama bin Laden, apparently tossing freedom
of the press to the same four winds reserved for Tenet and
The job of the national security advisor is to synthesize
all the intelligence data from the competing agencies and
advise the president on security and foreign affairs. It was
her job to police that State of the Union speech, not George
Tenet's, and certainly not some low-level functionary in the
vice president's office (who Rice would have us believe also
sends ex-ambassadors on fact-finding junkets to Niger).
Something tells me the wrong bureaucrat is being tossed
over the side.
Joy-Ann Reid's column appears in the Miami Herald. She
can be reached at email@example.com.