Monday, April 7, 2008

Condi's in! ... Condi's out!!

Is she or isn't she? That was the question being bounced around today as the world digested the curious remarks of former-Iraq-Coalition-Provisional-Authority-spokesman-turned-Republican strategist Dan Senor regarding Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Condi Rice has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning for" the vice presidency, Senor said during an interview on an ABC Sunday morning talk show.
How was Rice campaigning? Well, Senor didn't offer much:

“There's this ritual in Washington: The Americans for Tax Reform, which is headed by Grover Norquist, he holds a weekly meeting of conservative leaders -- about 100, 150 people, sort of inside, chattering, class types,” Senor said. “They all typically get briefings from political conservative leaders. Ten days ago, they had an interesting visit -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- the first time a secretary of state has visited the Wednesday meeting.”
So, she's campaigning for VP because ... she attended a lunch meeting?

I didn't see the interview, which George Stephanopoulos did with Senor. But my first question for Senor would have been, who else has appeared before Norquist's group? Can we assume that they are all "actively campaigning" for the No. 2 spot, as well?

SIDEBAR: It irritates me that a group -- any group, but in this case it's Americans for Tax Reform -- holds such sway in either party that a simple speech to the group is received in such a dramatic and profound way. It's just lunch, people. Calm down. END SIDEBAR
Other politicos have surmised that perhaps a recent interview Rice gave to a national magazine indicated her interest in the VP spot. What was the interview about? Peace in the Middle East? The proliferation of nuclear weapons? U.S.-Russian relations in the face of the Bush Administration's pursuit of a Europe-based missile defense system? The rise of China? No, it was about -- get this -- her workout program, and it appeared in Fitness Magazine.

For her part, Rice seemed surprised, and perhaps a bit annoyed, by Senor's statement, which she had to trot her State Department spokesman out to deny:

(Sean) McCormack reiterated that Rice wants to return to Stanford University, where she is a tenured professor.

"I think what she is considering is focusing on her work as Secretary of State because -- you may have missed it -- but there's actually quite a bit to do," McCormack said. "There's quite a bit left to do here as Secretary of State ... If she is actively seeking the vice presidency, then she's the last one to know about it."
Incidentally, A+ on the sound bite, Sean!

And then there is McCain, seemingly left on the sidelines as a bride awaiting the details of an arranged marriage:

The presumptive Republican nominee professed surprise on Sunday about the reports that Rice was seeking the job. "I missed those signals," he told reporters Sunday, though he called Rice a "great American."

So if there's no validity to Rice's interest in the vice presidency, that brings us back to Senor. Why would he make this statement, apparently without anything more to go on than a lunch appearance?

ABC notes that Senor is a "Republican strategist." I'd like to know for whom he's doing this strategizing. Senor obviously has an angle. The question is, what is it, and why is he dragging Condoleezza Rice into it?

OK, that's two questions. But they're good ones.

This is just a shot in the dark, but could it be that Norquist is a Senor client, and Senor is trying to build up credibility for Norquist's Wednesday lunch meetings ahead of Norquist courting other potential VPs? How embarrassing it would be for this SUPERimportant group of "inside, chattering, class types" to be told to go take a flying leap by any of the people McCain is vetting. That would be, like, a major blow to their credibility and stuff! So if an appearance before the group can get a person mentioned as a potential VP candidate, that would increase that person's likelihood of appearing before the group, and it has the added benefit of raising the group's profile with every story.

If that's it, it's not a bad strategy, Dan Senor. But I bet Condi won't be calling you to join her on a strength circuit anytime soon.