Monday, October 24, 2005

Condi Tests The Waters/Hillary In '08?

Secretary of State and unrepentant Bush apologist Condoleeza Rice has made a 3 day trip to Alabama, fueling speculation about a run for office. Although she took time to meet with Hurrican Katrina survivors, another more personal agenda was apparent.

But all weekend long, Ms. Rice seemed to be running for something. It was not, her aides maintained, for office, though she was greeted like a superstar everywhere, with an explosion of cheers at the Alabama-Tennessee football game on Saturday when she entered the field of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa with Mr. Straw for the ceremonial toss of the coin.

Ms. Rice insisted, on the contrary, that she was seeking to bring foreign policy issues to people outside Washington and, more important, to use the triumphant story of the civil rights movement to counsel patience and understanding for skeptics who believe that democracy cannot flourish in Iraq and the Middle East.

Foreign policy issues to the masses? In a state more concerned with the aftereffects of Hurrican Katrina, this seems, shall we say, an unlikely explanation.

It was Ms. Rice's second trip to the region since Hurricane Katrina, when she and other members of the Bush administration came under criticism for the handling of the storm's aftermath. On this trip, Ms. Rice met with hurricane victims and volunteers in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. But much of the rest of her itinerary was of a more personal nature.

No recent secretary of state has taken a trip like this, to relate a life story. Nor has Ms. Rice previously put her own experiences on such public display.

Present were a childhood friend and her school band teacher. But then there's this:

"I think she's quite popular in the South, but I don't know if she'd be a good presidential or vice-presidential candidate," said Hastings Wyman, editor of the Southern Political Report, a widely read newsletter. "But against Hillary, they would like her."

So perhaps the contingency plan is to have Condi ready in case of Hillary's declaration of her candidacy.

As for whether all this will lead to a political life beyond diplomacy, Ms. Rice said: "I don't know how many ways to say it - this isn't in my future. But I can't live my life as secretary of state deciding not to do things because people may consider them to have an impact on my political future, which I don't think I have."



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