Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Kathleen Parker on Susan Rice's qualifications: Sometimes it takes a right-winger to put the real crazies in their place


"[T]he opposition's arguments are weak, chief among them that Rice isn't qualified. This from [Sen. John] McCain, whose vetting history includes about 80 minutes of conversation with Sarah Palin before selecting her as his running mate in 2008. . . .

"[T]houghtful Republicans might reconsider the image of white men ganging up on a highly qualified black woman as they ponder the reasons for their collapsing tent. The road to redemption ain't thataway."

-- Kathleen Parker, in her WaPo column
"Susan Rice and the Senate's blame game"

by Ken

As right-wing pundits go, Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker enjoys the incalculable benefit of comparison with her utterly off-the-wall brothers and sisters. By that comparison, she can appear, you know, sane, possibly even sometimes very nearly sensible.

And she has another substantial advantage: enough firsthand experience with the vast horde of right-wing mental defectives, which can enable her to understand and put a name to what passes for "thinking" among them. Pulitzer Prizes for commentary have been awarded thumb-suckers who've accomplished way less than that.
A variety of insults have been deployed in opposition to Susan Rice's likely nomination for secretary of state: She is not qualified; she's too aggressive; she "misled" the public following the lethal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

Upon closer examination, however, the real reason may be less complicated. She's not a member of the most elite club in America, the U.S. Senate. Also, she appears to be President Obama's first choice.
I don't know about the Senate "club" thing. But the part about Rice appearing to be President Obama's first choice, well, there you go! You don't have to be exactly a genius-level observer to dope this out, but to hear it from the word processor of a certified right-winger like Parker, even a certifiably non-insane one, is little short of a miracle. The "sanies" and "semi-sanies" normally cover stalwartly for their afflicted brethren.

Naturally a certified right-winger has to start with a shot in another direction, and in this case Parker makes an interesting point about some visible nonsupport Rice has received from another direction.
Off somewhere letting her hair grow, Hillary Clinton knitted her brow and noted that Rice has been an excellent U.N. ambassador. Which is to say, she didn't exactly go to the mat for her female colleague, who had the audacity to support Obama for president rather than the former first lady.

In Ganglandia, it's the New Kids vs. the Clinton Machine. How dare Rice, once a Clinton administration appointee, defect?

Clinton, a McCain buddy from their years together in the Senate, reportedly prefers another Senate pal, John Kerry, as her successor. So does McCain & Co. So, needless to say, does Kerry, whose chiseled jaw alone constitutes a diplomatic arsenal. There's clearly no profit in Clinton, a likely presidential candidate in 2016, alienating allies and devaluing her own currency for Rice.
This, by the way, is as close as Parker comes to elaborating the "inside senators'" conspiracy. But that Hillary C hasn't exactly leapt to Rice's defense, well, that seems pretty much a matter of (non)record. (My own objection to a cabinet appointment for Senator Kerry is rather different. I worry that it would be a ticket back to the Senate for that useless slug Scott Brown.)

Moving on, Parker says that "even so, the opposition's arguments are weak, chief among them that Rice isn't qualified."
This from McCain, whose vetting history includes about 80 minutes of conversation with Sarah Palin before selecting her as his running mate in 2008. McCain's opinion about Rice's qualifications is only slightly less compelling than his thoughts on Playtex vs. Spanx.

For the record, Rice is a graduate of Stanford University and a Rhodes scholar, who served as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Even this is troubling to [Maine Sen. Susan] Collins, who said that the Benghazi attack "in many ways echoes the attacks on [U.S. embassies in Africa] in 1998 when Susan Rice was head of the African region."

Given this logic, shouldn't all eyes now be on Johnnie Carson? No, not the former "Tonight Show" host, Johnny Carson, but the current assistant secretary of African affairs. If Rice is somehow responsible for the 1998 attacks, shouldn't Carson be scrutinized now for Benghazi?
Um, again I think we're edging back into Loopyland, but again, the defense of Rice's credentials is pretty astonishing to hear from a certified right-winger.
Everybody brave enough to enter the public arena gets a few free passes when they utter something short of brilliant, but most of the criticisms aimed at Rice seem ungrounded in reality. To blame Rice for representing the administration's position as provided to her at the time is missing the target, which is properly the White House.

Does Rice have an aggressive personality, as some have said? And does this pose a risk in nominating her? Yes and yes. She notoriously once flipped the bird to diplomat Richard Holbrooke during a State Department meeting.

Such an impulsive act is no recommendation, but is it emblematic or merely anecdotal? Aggression -- and even occasional rudeness -- is rarely considered a flaw in men. And even aggressive men learn to temper their impulses as circumstances warrant. Thank goodness Rice didn't tell Holbrooke to go do that which one cannot do to oneself, as Dick Cheney once suggested to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. Or, heaven forbid, insist that we invade another country based on bad intelligence, as another Rice, who became secretary of state, once did.
Yes, yes, yes -- all yes.
The investigation into what transpired in Benghazi -- bad things sometimes happen in dangerous places is certainly appropriate. The administration's incoherent handling of information deserves scrutiny. But Rice, barring something we don't know, clearly has the qualifications for secretary of state.
As I suggested recently, it would be nice if attacks on this administration's "handling of information," and its general record on truth, were set against its predecessor's. But then, this president is also the person who told us we should be looking forward rather than backward, and so I have no problem with inquiring into this president's administration's handling of information.

Finally, though, Parker brings in an argument she might usefully have raised earlier:
[T]houghtful Republicans might reconsider the image of white men ganging up on a highly qualified black woman as they ponder the reasons for their collapsing tent. The road to redemption ain't thataway.
I don't think you could make much of a case that Rice has been singled out solely because she's a woman. Over the four years of Obama appointments, we've had way too much experience of large numbers of male appointees being beaten up and bloodied -- just as factlessly, the crucial consideration being, again, that they were this president-elect's, later president's, choice. When your fundamental principle of governing is "Obama = Hello No!," you don't have to deploy a high level of reasoning power. (And if you don't want to deploy a high level of reasoning power, congressional Republicans are your kind of people.)

But does anyone imagine that Rice's gender doesn't make her a specially appealing target for the forces of ignorance, insanity, and thuggery? Just last week Parker was trying to make a case (in the column "The double standard in affairs") that the ladies of the Petraeus & Co. scandals are victims of a double standard, which struck me as hooey. The ladies seem to me to be getting just about exactly what their behavior called for, while the supposedly better-treated men have had their quite substantial careers obliterated. In fact, Paula Treadway -- who succeeded in getting a book written and published despite the absence of any visible credentials other than sheer gall and her access to The General, baased on, well, the obvious credential -- is selling more books than she could ever have dreamt of.

However, in Susan Rice's case, we have to ask what it is that makes a person a suitable target for bullying. Rather obviously, the first consideration is that you think you can get away with it. If one wants to make the case that Rice's gender and ethnicity add up to something like a bull's-eye on her back, well, you'll get no argument from me.

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