Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Condi For Senate

There has been a great deal of misplaced enthusiasm for Condi Rice running for president, especially in 2008 against Hillary Clinton. Such arguments push for the elevation of Ms. Rice to the highest elected office in the land, despite her never having held any elected office whatsoever, have even been observed issuing from the lips and pens of some of those finding Harriet Miers' lack of judicial experience to foreclose her current nomination to the Supreme Court. Go figure.

Ms. Rice might well turn out to be a formidable campaigner and elected official. She should start below the very top level, but there is no reason to start at anyone's idea of the "bottom" (a state assembly seat is not in her future). So how about trying for a U.S. Senate seat now held by one of those California Democrats? At least in the case of Senator Boxer, Condi would have the advantage of not being utterly nutty. That's a characteristic her opponent has in abundance:

Life Imitates Literature

Q: What are we to make of the fact that you, a Democratic senator from the Bay Area, have just written a novel about a Democratic senator from the Bay Area who appears to be the most decent person in all of Washington?

The Senator: I worked on this book for seven years. I just want to tell people what my world is like. Show them the great parts of it, the terrible parts of it, the toughness, the idealism, the corruption, all of this.

But how can you say that "A Time to Run," your first novel, represents the world of Washington politics when the Democratic characters are portrayed as saints, the Republicans as snakes?

Let the reader judge. I come to the book with a point of view. But my characters, I believe they're multidimensional.

What about Greg, who becomes an operative for a wealthy Republican businessman and tries to destroy the career of a Democratic congressman who was his friend in college? Do you think Democrats are just more virtuous than Republicans?

As individuals? No. But as parties, I think the Democrats have virtuous goals.

The senator in your novel, by a nice coincidence, is trying to block the nomination of a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court. What do you make of Harriet Miers?

She doesn't bring stellar experience to the job. That's a fact. That's not a disqualifier in my mind. What is a disqualifier is if I can't find out what the heck she will do. With her we have a blank slate. We need to demand information.

I am surprised to hear you say that you don't care about qualifications. Aren't we supposedly looking for a brilliant legal mind to fill the post?

Does he or she have to be the smartest person in America? That's not my bar. Other people have that bar. If the nominee went to a good school - that's not my bar.

You voted against Judge Roberts, and I am wondering if there are any conservatives you could ever vote for.

Sure. I sent two recommendations to the president. One was Ron George, the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, and the other was Kate Werdegar, an associate justice. Two Republicans.

Did President Bush answer your letter?

No. He did not. It didn't come across my desk, let me put it that way.

Do you frequently write to the president?

About once a month. I sent a letter to him right after Katrina and said that the National Guard troops from Louisiana and Mississippi should be pulled out of Iraq and brought home.

Why do you think so many people insist that Democrats have no ideas?

It's hard at this stage because we don't really have a soap box. We don't run anything, not the Senate, not the House, not the White House. Zero, zippo. We fight for the microphone when we can, and we will have the microphone as we get closer to the midterm elections in 2006.

Do you live with any other senators in Washington?

I have a house, and let me tell you the joy of my life. I share it with my daughter and my grandson. And I found out today that my grandson got elected as class representative of the fifth grade.

I hope you're not advising him to enter politics.

No. It's so hard right now, and if you love someone to the core of your stomach, then you don't tell them to go into politics. Which doesn't mean they won't do it.

Your daughter was married to Hillary Clinton's kid brother, Tony Rodham. Does that make Hillary a relative of yours?

We share a bond, because she is my grandson's aunt. My grandson is the only person that we know of in the history of this country who has both a grandmother and an aunt in the U.S. Senate.

It seems as if you're one of the few senators who aren't considering a bid for the presidency in 2008.

No. Someone has to stay in the Senate. And the Senate is not chopped liver.

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