Condoleezza Rice has a new memoir, which tells about the part of her life before she got a job that anyone was interested in. Well, some people might also have been interested in the antics of a liberal-baiting provost at Stanford, but probably that’s best for Jonathan Franzen’s next novel or something. And so Dwight Garner of the New York Times is
Reading it, from the perspective of ideas an intellect, is like watching a Toyota Prius compete in the Indianapolis 500.
But it’s that part that does engage Garner that makes the book sound the most tiresome:
This memoir is teeming with fascinating detail. It explains why Ms. Rice’s father, John Wesley Rice Jr., who was also a Presbyterian pastor, became a Republican. (The city’s Democratic machine prevented blacks from voting, while Republicans welcomed them.)
I guess that’s fascinating, if you’ve never heard a single political speech by Rice and if you missed the entire 2000 Parade of Diversity at the Republican National Convention. Republicans were once the party that supported voting rights for black people, and Southern Democrats were the segregationists. Isn’t that something? Did you know that? Oh, you did? Me, too.
Why does Condoleezza Rice keep telling this anecdote as if it explains anything? The Southern racists switched allegiances from the Democrats to the Republicans more than 40 years ago. Rice’s choice to stay with the Republican Party after white Alabama became a GOP stronghold must say something about her. But Rice uses the story about her father to obscure her reasons, not to reveal them.
When Rice was an academic, she was an expert on the Soviet Union. Did she decide to be a Stalinist, because Stalin was on our side against Hitler? Of course not. That would have been stupid and historically blind. Does Rice have lower standards for American history? Or just for American politics?