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Black Star in Winter

Condoleezza Rice will go down with Bush, and appropriately so

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 09, 2007.

As a bitter and annoyed Democrat when George Bush was given the Presidency in 2000, I have to say that when I looked at his initial cabinet and security council I was pleasantly surprised. Along with horrors like John Ashcroft there was certainly the knowledgeable Don Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice. Rice and Powell, being African Americans in a conservative administration, could not help but make me feel good. I thought Bush would be irritating, but the competence and diversity of the group I thought high and we’d survive to 2004.

Early on, I’d revised my opinion. Bush was, for all his bombast and posturing, a very weak President, and therefore a dangerous one. He could not control Rumsfeld, who like all competent people expanded to fill a vacuum and burned out. Colin Powell was treated more shabbily than Adlai Stevenson was by the Kennedys. Powell was used as a front man for cover as well, and was sent off to unknowingly lie to the UN about the WMD’s, and unintentionally erasing Stevenson’s great moments in the process.

But Rice, who was friends with the Bush family, was reputedly highly competent, and what a resume for a Democrat to love. Civil Rights? Her best friends were the four girls blown up by a KKK bomb in her Birmingham church; a slight change of schedule, she could have been a victim herself. Brilliant scholar, musician, and a champion athlete, and Provost of Stanford University. She was a Democratic Dream Team in one, and how she became a Republican speaks to Democratic failures, not Republican triumphs. Her role as National Security Advisor is shrouded in mystery, although she is given every benefit of every doubt. Since she became Bush’s second Secretary of State following the fall of Colin Powell, her skills and achievements are much more accessible to know and weigh.

And how depressing it is. Virtually everything she’s touched, despite all the spin, has turned to nothing. Whether in the middle east, the far east, or dealing with our alienated allies, everyone seems to like, respect her resume, and ignore her if they cannot use her for photo ops. Even at his worst, Powell exuded competence because he had it as a good soldier with high political skills and inclinations towards inclusion and constant diplomacy. Rice’s weak results to date are undoubtedly the residue of her administration’s collapse, and the decline of respect for the United States Bush has engendered, everywhere and in all areas of contact.

Now, Rice now is revealed to have failures of her own to explain.

It goes back to the UN’s oil-for-food program, which conservatives damned because it was approved by Clinton and because Saddam forced the Iraq state company that received the oil payments to give him kickbacks. Among several major oil companies under investigation, Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, is about to say, as part of a settlement with federal investigators of a friendly GOP administration, it should have known those kickbacks were being paid and called attention to it. The seriousness of the admission will be emphasized with fines totaling $25 million to $30 million. By buying their way out with pocket change, Chevron and others won’t have to admit to violating UN sanctions and possibly face criminal charges. Just have to admit they should have known their money – ours, in a sense - was being used illegally.

All international companies should have an internal policy committee, part of the board of directors, with competent people responsible for preventing this ‘sort of thing,’ a ‘sort of thing’ both illegal, arguably treasonous to our nation, and counterproductive to the company’s shareholders, if not the Board Members themselves. As Paul Volcker’s report states, surcharges on Iraqi oil exports were introduced in August 2000 by the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization to fund the kickbacks. And at the time, Condoleezza Rice was not only a member of Chevron’s board but led the public policy committee which oversaw just this area of concern. This responsibility to the shareholders, if not the country, was apparently ignored while she campaigned with Bush. It’s to be doubted anyone foresaw an investigation.

Being black, female, culturally accomplished and smart no longer compensates for Rice’s now evident devotion to being a paid face on sleazy practice, whether in government or the private sector. Condi Rice can be as sleazy as the worst of the Bushies, a hypocrite, and a poseur for hire. I suppose in a way, the fact that a black woman can be as powerful, incompetent, and ethically challenged as a WASP man is a sign of integration’s triumph.

But these days, she won’t be damned because she isn’t a Democrat. Imagine FoxNews if that were the case at these revelations.