People milled around, paying little attention to a befuddled Sen. John McCain who plumped for the military, Sam Olens and Pam Bondi, a Punch and Judy show, Senator John Thune, compelled to tell us that his father’s name, Gjelsvik, had been too hard for Ellis Island clerks, Senator Ron Perlman who for some reason invoked FDR and Harry Truman, a businessman named Steven Cohen, Tim Pawlenty, vulgar enough to make Newt Gingrich seem couth, and Mike Huckabee, who belabored the recurring “You didn’t build it” calumny.
The audience seemed numb when Condoleezza Rice came on, but she revived them with her first paragraph, about the moment she learned that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center and changed the world.
What followed was an academic lecture by a star professor. With mandatory nods to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, she spoke of the global economy, the Arab Spring, the endangered basis of American exceptionalism, and education, “the civil rights struggle of our day.” She closed telling about a child in “Jim Crow Birmingham,” whose mother could not take her to Woolworth’s lunch counter for a hamburger, yet told her she could be President of the United States, “...and she did become the Secretary of State.”
The rest was anticlimax. New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, brought on Paul Ryan, whose shrewdness and energy were evident as he trotted out the distortions, half truths, and outright lies that are Republican mantras in this campaign.
One can only hope that Condoleezza Rice’s powerful speech will project her into politics, as Barack Obama’s did in Iowa, in 2004. She is the last best hope of a Tea Party-divided and morally bankrupt Republican Party, before it slides into the dust bin of history, like its ancestral Whig Party, divided by the issue of slavery. And who but professors of history remember anything at all about the Whig Party?