Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Real McCondi

There is a growing chorus of those who believe or suspect that the entire fuss the White House has put up over Condi Rice's coming testimony was an exercise in Rope-A-Dope psychology.

But, in addition to enhancing the President's position by focusing public attention on terrorism and his hyper-competent National Security Advisor, there is another respect in which the Democrat-led kerfuffle over Ms. Rice is entirely counterproductive for them and, especially, John Kerry:

Ms. Rice is African-American, and this entire production must be drawing the attention of the African-American community to how central she, her thinking and her role have been to the Bush Administration.

The current assault on Bush administration terrorism policy has become ever more obviously an assault on Condi Rice, and, increasing, an obviously unfair assault on her by Democrats and their supporters (and the President's critics) in the media. That's got to be registering strongly with many African-American voters.

Indeed, it is testimony to what a truly extraordinary person Ms. Rice really is that the entire racial aspect of this affair seems to be passing without particualr notice in the media. But I don't think it will pass without notice in African-American voting.

It would be useful if some public pollster could try to measure the effect of her involvement, especially her coming testimony, on African-Americans. No Democrat can win without an large turnout of African Americans who overwhelming favor the Democrat. Is the Kerry campaign thinking that the turnout will be spurred by inviting African Americans to vote against Condi Rice, a genuine African-American icon? Who thinks this stuff up?

But, somehow, I'm guessing that the President's campaign people have already done their own private polling and focus groups.


An alert readers e-mails a warning in the form of a Jay Nordlinger anecdote from NRO:

A friend of mine from Arkansas writes the following: "Thought you'd appreciate this little anecdote. A co-worker of mine has a daughter in public elementary school, here in Pine Bluff. They're still doing Black History Month stuff, apparently, because the kids were told to come to class dressed as a famous (and presumably accomplished) African-American. My co-worker's kid was told to come as Tina Turner. My co-worker informed the teacher that her child would come as Condoleezza Rice instead. The teacher refused to allow it, on grounds that Rice 'is for white people.' Nice, huh?"

Disgusting — and, again, very American. Sadly so.

This really is an appalling story, and what it suggests is very possible. Consider Justice Thomas.

But this anecdote aside, I really haven't yet seen any serious signs that African-Americans don't identify with Condi - or that the Dems are even trying to drive a wedge here. By all appearances, Ms. Rice has an appealing personality (of course, I have a fondness for very smart, confident women). Any attempt to smear her personally (as opposed to her professional judgment) would, in my opinion, rapidly become very dangerous for the smearing party. In any event, even if my hopes and suspicions don't pan out, the ex-ante risk of adversely affecting African-American turnout and sentiment seems pretty large for the Dems.

And the same can be said for turnout and senitments of female voters of any race, at least to to the extent one believes in effects of identity politics.

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