Condoleezza Rice (
by Steve Timmer
Apr 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

Well, isn’t that sweet

I am speaking, of course, of the Strib’s op-ed board’s little love letter to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, welcoming her to Minnesota for a speech at the University’s Humphrey Institute, apparently on the subject of civil rights. As the editorial notes, a letter of protest was lodged by 182 faculty members about the choice of Sec. Rice.

As these faculty members point out, Sec. Rice is not a prominent scholar on civil rights, the subject of this year’s lecture series. (This is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a law that the Hobby Lobby people hope to begin dismantling this year, via the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act, but I digress.)

To me, the most memorable thing about Sec. Rice is not her plucky triumph over the segregated South, but her evasive and dissembling Congressional testimony justifying how the Bush Administration was caught entirely flat-footed by the events of September 11, 2001. Who could have imagined that people would hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings? she asks sadly in her testimony. Well, who indeed?

Novelist Tom Clancy, for one, who wrote a best-selling novel with just such a scenario as its denouement. Before 9/11.

Not to mention all the intelligence that the NSA was feeding the Bush Administration about al Qaeda activities leading up to the hijackings. Remember the good old days when the NSA concentrated on foreign intelligence gathering?

And then there is the little matter of the prosecution of the wars in the Middle East and the whuppin’ we gave to a lot of detainees in a denial not only of their civil rights, but their human rights. A mess that we’re still trying to clean up today, with a knot of people still detained who may never be tried because the evidence is so compromised.

We can lay that at the feet of the Bush Administration and Sec. Rice, too.

I don’t think Condoleezza Rice is an admirable person, but maybe that’s just me. But I doubt it. I am pretty sure, though, that she’s a bad choice to talk about civil rights, except maybe in the confessional.

Then there is the matter of paying Sec. Rice twice what an experienced teacher makes in a year for one lecture. Well, it’s from private funds, says the U. We can imagine two possibilities here. First, the private funders had some say in the choice of Sec. Rice. If that’s true, it flies in the face of the “open dialog” defenders of the choice.

If the private funders didn’t have a say in the selection, it reflects poor stewardship of the money by the University. Merely because it was “private money” doesn’t mean it was free money. Instead of choosing one speaker who doesn’t have much of a c.v. on the subject of civil rights at $150K, perhaps the University could have gotten three speakers at $50K each who really know something about the subject.

Private money or not, this is the kind of decision making that alums pay attention to.

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