Last week, Condoleezza Rice rolled on in her thinly disguised presidential campaign this time taking it to an international audience in Britain.
Last October, Rice returned to her hometown, Birmingham, Alabama to commemorate the forty-second (42nd) anniversary of the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of church bombings that murdered her childhood friend, Denise McNair. The historical record confirms that this was the first public word of regret to emerge from Rice’s mouth about the atrocity.
This forty-two (42) year hiatus raises many questions about Rice’s motives. Why did the first Afro-American woman to become US Secretary of State wait forty-two (42) years before registering her sorrow over the hate-crime that killed her acquaintance? Was her silence a product of cowardice? Callousness? Lack of concern? Why did it take Condoleezza Rice forty-two (42) years to condemn an atrocity perpetrated against her friend and her community by the Ku Klux Klan? Why did Condoleezza Rice wait so long to condemn a racist atrocity?
In fact, Rice’s Birmingham re-visitation raises another question: Why commemorate the 42nd anniversary of anything? A probable answer: To launch a presidential campaign for an Afro-American candidate who never supported the civil rights movement or its leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Pundits have pointed to Rice’s re-visitation of Birmingham as the obvious launch of her presidential campaign. In Birmingham, she was accompanied by her now well-worn sidekick, the UK Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, a long-standing ally of the neoconservatives in the Israel Lobby.
Jack Straw’s presence was a signal that the right-wing elements behind the sternest security policies of the state of Israel are standing firmly behind Rice, a stalwart Christian Zionist, in support of her quest for the American presidency. Straw has been a steadfast and stalwart supporter of the global neoconservativism of Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld, and he is seen as a steady international operator whose influence can help activate major donors loyal to the Israel Lobby for her presidential campaign. Today, Straw is happily serving as Rice’s glove puppet and cat’s paw, protecting her image and enforcing her policies on a global scale.
Last week, Straw gleefully escorted Rice on a high profile visit to his home district in the north of England. Blackburn is a city that was visited by Mahatma Gandhi who enjoyed a spirit of solidarity with its labour community. The Beatles song, A day in the life, features a line, “Four thousand holes in Blackburn,” a reference to the pock-marked city streets that made travel there difficult and nearly impractical.
Straw had even arranged for Rice to visit a mosque in order to connect with the burgeoning Islamic community in Blackburn, but this ploy backfired. The mosque decided to rescind the invitation. Worse. They went public with their affront and decided to join the throngs protesting against Rice’s visit.
In Britain, thousands of people marched in solidarity against Rice and the war in Iraq which is seen by a vast majority as a serious crime against humanity. The war is even less popular in Britain than America–far less popular. It should be noted that the British people are just as isolated from their democratic processes as the American people are from their’s. The opinions of the overwhelming majorities of democratic peoples count for nothing, while the arrogance of Rice and Straw and Bush and Blair is all that matters. Rice is not universally popular in America. The acclaimed film director, Spike Lee, has denounced her for what he characterises as a betrayal of her racial and cultural identity.
Rupert Murdoch’s flagship, The Times, ran a feature story on the roots of Rice in their magazine supplement. Written by the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, Peter Stothard, What Condi Did First will be received as a very curious form of tribute. Stothard spent time in Birmingham researching Rice’s childhood, her roots and origins. What he discovered was not entirely flattering. Far from it.
Rice was born into a church–literally. Her father was a School Counselor and an evangeliical fundamentalist preacher at the Westminster Presbyterian Church located in Titusville, the black middle class suburb of Birmingham. The church was a building that had a manse or parsonage attached to the main building.
There is a revealing series of photographs published in Stothard’s piece. One shows a three year old Condoleezza dressed in white and playing a white piano. White clothing was popular in Titusville’s religious community, where children were dressed in white dresses and white suits for Sunday school.
White-aspiring communities like Titusville were the consumers of products that were advertised on the pages of black magazines. Products for hair straightening and skin whitening were consumed in great volumes by the aspirant Afro-Americans. The film, I Passed for White sent a chilling message to the Afro-American community–you could try to pass yourself off for white and escape the ignominy of racism if you dared. Condoleezza Rice’s contemporaries recalled that skin colour determined status in Titusville. The lighter the skin colour, the higher the status.
The Rice family are descendants of a lineage that is sometimes euphemistically called the “house slaves”. That the Rice family’s ancestors were allowed to work in the mansions of their masters confirms the fact that they were the most trusted slaves and servants on the plantations. Not only were the house slaves more trusted, they were the objects of desire of the slave-owning families. House slaves were subjected to the de riguer sexual liberties of their masters. Over the generations, the descendants of “house” or “sex” slaves developed lighter complexions.
A contemporary of Condoleezza Rice recalled these painful aspects of Afro-American culture for Peter Stothard. Marion Davis remembered the disgraceful racist taunts that scarred her for life. She informed Stothard that she received the effrontery of an outrageous racial insult, “high yellow nigger”. Mrs. Davis said, “I’m sure that Condoleezza Rice got that yellow nigger stuff, too.”
Another image from the Rice family photo album shows a three or four year old Condoleezza Rice sitting spread-eagled above the vertical radiator grille of her uncle’s Jaguar Mark VIII saloon which resembles the Rolls Royce and Bentley of the era. In the 1950s, the Jaguar Mark VIII was one of the most coveted, luxurious and expensive cars in the world. This Jaguar image will launch shockwaves to Stothard’s British audience. In the mid 1950s, Condoleezza Rice’s family were certainly among the wealthiest Afro-Americans in the world. Throughout her career, Rice has remained steadfastly loyal to her petite bourgeiosie roots in the black middle class.
The Rice family were so bourgeois that they were actually registered Republicans. While most people presume that all black Americans are Democrats that is simply not the case. There is a small but steadfast niche of black Republicans which includes the Rice Family as well as the other black Republicans like Justice Clarence Thomas who are holdovers from the Reconstruction Era.
Black America converted to the Democratic Party in the 1920s and 1930s, when the rise of the Ku Klux Klan’s drive for white power culminated in their merger with the Republican Party of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover when the Democrats nominated a Roman-Catholic liberaliser, Al Smith. Four years later, FDR announced his policies of repeal of prohibition and a new social platform for America, and the conversion of the majority of Afro-Americans was complete. Except for a brief flirtation with the presidential campaign of Democrat Gart Hart in 1984, Condoleezza Rice has been loyal to her family’s Republican tradition.
Stothard interviewed many of Rice’s contemporaries in Alabama. They testified that the Rice family did not support the civil rights movement. The Rice family never marched. They never supported Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They seem to have been too busy preaching and playing hymns for the inspiration of their meagre white clad congregation in Titusville. John Rice made it well known from his pulpit that he did not approve of marches. Connie Ray, a Rice family member stated bluntly, “We were none of us marchers in that crowd.”
John Rice would preach with his wife playing the organ on one side of the pulpit, and Condoleezza playing the piano on the other side. Mrs. Carol Smitherman described the services of the Rice congregation. Describing herself as a, “Christocrat,” Mrs. Smitherman told Stothard, “I pray for guidance before all the decisions I take–and I know that Condoleezza Rice does too. The Reverend Rice taught us all that.”
Rice’s personal conduct of prayer meetings aboard Air Force One and her leading role in the White House Bible Study groups has not gone un-noticed, but never has her religiosity been so crystal clear.
Rice is the minority woman who opposed affirmative action at Stanford, while being the world’s most shining example of it.
Condoleezza Rice’s rise to the political pinnacle has never been adequately analyzed. Her ascent began during the administration of George Bush, Sr. General Brent Scowcroft “discovered” her at a conference on international relations in Colorado, then he swiftly “introduced” her to the president who–with characteristic alacrity–appointed her to his National Security staff as a Sovietologist. Rumors persist of her private relations with Bush, Sr. and other members of his White House staff. Rice has guarded her private life closely, so closely that she wants it to appear as if she has never had one, but the eyebrows of Washington’s intelligentsia are frequently raised when discussing her meteoric rise under Bush, Sr.
Bush, Sr. has been described by women on his clerical staff from his White House days as, “a big flirt.” Correspondence from his oil millionaire days has been published in which he bragged of his affair with a Hollywood starlet in the mid-1950s. Bush, Sr. is clinically hyper-active, and his detractors have frequently described his personal life in terms as colourful as that of his successor, Bill Clinton. Rice’s role in Bush, Sr.’s personal life is a party-circuit staple of Washington gossip.
After Bush, Sr.’s defeat, Rice took an academic post at Berkeley where she became the most controversial and unpopular administrator on campus. She attacked the university’s policy of affirmative action and actively sacked minority faculty to replace them with whites. It is almost as if she lives in denial of the fact that she is the actual epitome of the success of affirmative action. To make matters worse for herself in academia, she accepted an appointment to the board of Chevron, one of the oil giants beholden to the Bush clan. What services she performed for the board are, again, the object of gossip and speculation. The corporation made the, perhaps, ill-conceived decision to name an oil tanker after Rice, an embarrassment that raises still more questions about her role in the Bush oil lobby.
Today, in 2006, Condoleezza Rice is poised on the brink of a full blown presidential campaign. Her denials have been totally disingenuous obfuscations. She is running, and she is running at near top speed. She is furlongs ahead of her rivals, and there really is no competition in sight–in either party. Dick Morris has written a very perceptive book titled simply, Condi versus Hillary.
In his book, Morris argues that Rice will swiftly, certainly and positively blast Hillary Clinton into the political graveyard. I find Morris’s arguments persuasive. In fact, I have been concerned about Rice’s impending danger to constitutional democracy in America since the 2004 election and the first inklings of the Democratic Party’s fatal fixation on Hillary Clinton which emerged in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of John Kerry in his tearful concession speech at Faneiul Hall. The obvious Republican riposte to Hillary Clinton will be Condoleezza Rice. Their records are a chiaroscuro of practical, presidential politics.
Rice is the black Christian Zionist candidate who will dare to appeal–and she will appeal very strongly – to the racist right in the South. Hillary is her perfect foil–a Northern woman who has risen to political power on the coattails of her Southern husband. Rice will garner over three hundred electoral votes in her race against Hillary Clinton which will seem like a landslide in contrast to the two previous presidential elections.
By ignoring the threat of Condoleezza Rice and the neoconservative foreign policy she embodies, the Democratic Party is setting itself up for a catastrophe in 2006 and beyond. Much of the Democratic strategy that is being set in place to nominate Hillary Clinton could not have been designed to fail any more certainly if it had come straight from the desks of Karl Rove or Dick Morris who still bears the scars of his seething grudge against both of the Clintons.
Rice is the public relations vehicle designed and calculated to maintain an intense and escalating period of American neoconservativism which she will launch on a global scale with direct interventions into the domestic policies of foreign nations across the planet. Her agenda will be to jerk and pull and force a sharp planetary political shift to the hard-right.
Expect Rice to make her Christocratic credentials the fountainhead of her platform for the White House.
MICHAEL CARMICHAEL has been a professional public affairs consultant, author and broadcaster since 1968. In 2003, he founded The Planetary Movement Limited, a global public affairs organization based in the United Kingdom. He has appeared as a public affairs expert on the BBC’s Today Programme, Hardtalk, PM, as well as numerous appearances on ITN, NPR and many European broadcasts examining politics and culture. He can be reached through his website: www.planetarymovement.org