By Jonathan S. Tobin
Put me down as being among those who are highly skeptical about the prospect of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being tapped to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. The media frenzy about the possibility is understandable but despite all the arguments weighing her possible impact on the general election, you really don’t have to go further than the impact of the issue of abortion. Simply put, Mitt Romney needs a united Republican Party and given the questions that were raised about whether he was a genuine conservative and his late conversion to the anti-abortion cause, the idea that he will pick someone who is pro-choice rather than pro-life seems utterly improbable.
As some wags pointed out during the prelude to the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision, covering a story like Romney’s vice presidential pick is like covering an election without opinion polls. Nobody knows what’s really going on except for Romney. Both Michael and Alana have discussed some of the problems that Rice would create for Romney. The list is already long but there’s one more point to be raised. If Romney is planning on taking advantage of President Obama’s questionable record on Israel in order to eat into the Democrats’ historic monopoly on the Jewish vote, Rice will make that task harder. During her tenure as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State during the George W. Bush administration, Rice consistently took stands that were viewed with suspicion by the pro-Israel community. Indeed, it could be said that during Bush’s last two years of office, which was the period during which was ascendant on foreign policy, Rice had reversed the president’s tilt toward Israel as she embarked upon another failed attempt to revive the peace process.
Rice, who seems cut from the “realist” school that was most comfortable during the presidency of the elder George Bush, was a persistent critic of Israel even once falsely comparing the plight of Palestinians to that of African-Americans prior to the Civil Rights era. Though the second President Bush had formally committed the United States to an endorsement of Israel’s right to hold onto various parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem in a peace accord in 2004, Rice seemed to distance herself from that pledge as she foolishly sought to revive the peace process despite a lack of interest in the idea on the part of the Palestinians. Slipping into the pattern that had been a keystone of U.S. foreign policy under both the first Bush and Bill Clinton, Rice seemed uninterested in holding the Palestinian Authority accountable for its behavior or even its rejection of the offer of a state that it got from Israel at the time of the Annapolis summit that she promoted.
Though Rice’s stands were not aimed at distancing the United States from Israel, as was the intent of President Obama’s constant fighting with Jerusalem prior to his current election-year Jewish charm offensive, she nevertheless developed a reputation as someone who was less committed to the alliance than her boss in the Oval Office.
Rice’s presence on the ticket will cost Romney far more evangelical votes than she could possibly lose in the Jewish community. Nevertheless, Rice will give Jewish Democrats a chance to fire back at Republicans who have been touting the contrast between Obama and Romney. Though Rice is a brilliant and accomplished woman whose personal story will be an inspiration to the country, she will diminish the chances that Romney will, as some expect, gain more Jewish votes than any Republican since Ronald Reagan. That’s not as nearly as important as the problems she will create with the conservative base of the Republican Party but it is one more reason to believe that the Rice boomlet isn’t real.