TAMPA, Florida — Condoleezza Rice delivers a key foreign policy convention speech Wednesday, the lone hold-out from the Bush era to take part in the coronation of Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential candidate.
George W. Bush’s former secretary of state will make the case that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would be an able leader of the free world in her speech to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
The absence this week of both Bush presidents, former vice president Dick Cheney, former secretary of state Colin Powell and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, raised speculation of a possible rift with the Romney camp.
Bush-era critics, harking back to Rice’s role during the US-led military interventions in Iraq, feared her speaking role augured a return to war-mongering and accused Romney of having “outsourced” his security and defense policy.
“I am troubled by Republicans’ choice to hand what little platform for national security they have over to Condoleezza Rice and John McCain,” said retired Major General Paul Eaton, from the National Defense Network (NDN).
“While I respect Secretary Rice’s talents, the Bush-Rumsfeld-Rice team perpetrated what I consider the most egregious US national security failure of the last half-century, namely, the disastrous decision to invade Iraq without the resources or exit strategy needed to execute a responsible military campaign.
“Romney’s choice today to outsource discussion of foreign policy to neoconservative ambassadors to last decade’s reckless security catastrophes is deeply concerning to the military community,” Eaton said.
Cherylyn Harley Lebon, an advisor to the Romney campaign, told AFP there was no rift between the Romney camp and Bush-era stalwarts.
“There’s no set procedure. It’s nothing personal. There’s no rhyme or reason. Not everybody wants to do this forever and a day,” she said.
Romney has little actual overseas experience other than his stint in France as a Mormon missionary, so the speech by Rice, 57, was expected to shed a little light on his foreign policy vision and prerogatives.
“I think Condi is going to give an incredible speech that is going to wrap in all kinds of policy issues — policy issues that obviously are in line with what a Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan administration would look like,” Harley Lebon said.
“Obviously a woman with her background and her foreign policy expertise has a whole lot to share the the audience tonight.”
Rice, the only ever black female secretary of state, is a Republican rock star who in addition to her political nous gained cache for her love of American football, skills as a classically trained pianist and thigh high boots.
Her foreign policy chops include a doctorate in Soviet Studies, a tenured professorship at the prestigious Stanford University — where she continues to teach — and a stint in Bush’s first term as his national security adviser.
Rice’s speech comes amid speculation she could seek a position in a future Romney administration — despite having always publicly professed that she is happy to be back in academia after eight years in the Bush administration.
Harley Lebon said that while it was far from clear whether Rice would be willing to accept a role at a high level of US government again, “she could, if she chose to, make a significant contribution in a Romney-Ryan administration.”
Her involvement in helping craft Romney’s foreign policy, or her endorsement of it, could add gravitas — especially after what was seen as a gaffe-filled foreign outing by Romney a few weeks ago when he traveled to Britain, Israel and Poland.
“She’s a very well respected and admired member of the administration,” Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, told AFP.
“She was a very effective member of the administration, and I think it will be a nice lead-in to Paul Ryan’s speech tonight,” Steele said, referring to an address by to be delivered later Wednesday evening by Romney’s running mate.