Condoleezza Rice isn’t feeling Sarah Palin. When she spoke to CNN recently, the Secretary of State smiled like a loyal Republican as she praised Palin’s convention speech and dodged questions about the 18-month Alaska governor’s lack of expertise in foreign policy. “There are different kinds of experiences in life that help one to deal with matters of foreign policy,” Rice declared dutifully through a seemingly forced grin. Declining to praise Palin, Secretary Rice said, “These are decisions that Sen. McCain has made. I have great confidence in him.” That statement, with its total absence of admiration for Palin, contrasts dramatically with Rice’s assessment of Barack Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden. Rice described Biden (who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) as “obviously a very fine statesman.”

A time-honored West African (Fulfulde) proverb reminds us that “Silence is also speech.” Condoleezza Rice’s silence on Sarah Palin speaks loud and clear. By refusing to give Palin props, Rice is indirectly declaring her lack of respect for the wannabe Vice President. Rice knew she was shoveling manure with that nonsense about “different kinds of experiences” helping Palin “deal with matters of foreign policy.”

John McCain wanted to choose a woman for VP, but he didn’t approach Rice even though no woman in the Republican Party is better prepared than she to work in the White House. Four years as Secretary of State, four years as National Security Advisor and, before that, a long and distinguished career as a professor of history and international relations at Stanford University. Sarah Palin’s minor league record withers to insignificance when compared to Rice’s exceptional qualifications.

But Rice wasn’t even on McCain’s short list. Why? The Arizona senator wants to hide his support for President Bush’s policies so running with Rice might highlight his ties to the White House. But that isn’t really McCain overlooked her. Rice has stated that she’s anxious to return to teaching. But that isn’t why McCain overlooked her, either. The reason is that, while searching for a running mate, McCain wasn’t really checking for experience, knowledge or even skill. He was checking for an image.

Sarah Palin does not have the professional necessities to be second-in-line to the President. But she does embody the Norman Rockwell-meets-Mayberry mythology that the GOP’s conservative, overwhelmingly white base holds dear. She’s a white woman from a small, predominately white country town who embraces good ol’ boy ways, loves to hunt, has a big family and espouses conservative Christian values (even if she’s been unable to make some of those values stick in her own home). She can even skin a dead moose! (“Field dress?” Is that the term?)

The Republican base would have never chosen Condoleezza Rice because she’s an intellectual and, much more importantly, because she’s…well…you know… “African-American.” Those right wing base voters would rather choose an inexperienced, uninformed white woman who’s only been governor for a year-and-a-half, is facing a state ethics investigation and has a pregnant 17-year-old daughter than choose a black woman who spent the last eight years working in a Republican administration and is one of the nation’s most respected experts on global affairs.

No, I don’t think John McCain is a racist. But his party tolerates and has promoted racism. With this election, the GOP seems to have fully-embraced it’s standing as a racially-excluding organization. In previous elections the Republicans have at least pretended to care about black folks and other people of color (remember when they used to talk about having a “big tent?”), but this year they didn’t even try to play it off. The all-white crowds on the delegate floor during the recent Republican National Convention were a chilling throw-back to the bad old days and a clear statement about the GOP’s racial attitude and vision for the future.

It is in this context that Gov. Sarah Palin entered the picture.

Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.


Cameron Turner is a Los Angeles-area native whose editorials, entertainment news features and audio documentaries have appeared on national radio networks, online and in print for over 20 years.

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