Can a former respected academic “go home” again to a former academic nest after serving in a controversial administration, a controversial post on that administration — and being perceived as either an implementer or enabler of controversial war and torture policies?
Former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice faced that test when she visited a dorm at Stanford University. Over the years, I’ve heard many good things about Rice and Stanford. During the 2000 campaign a former professor of mine who had known her praised her as a person and as a a thinker. I had met people who had gone to Stanford who echoed that view: a wonderful person, a solid thinker and someone who was good at dealing with and handling people.
But as Harper’s Scott Horton notes in a post titlted Condi’s Really Bad Day, the details how Rice discovered now faces a different milieu than the one that often treated her with kid gloves in Washington — and a different generation of students than she had 7 years ago. He writes:
For eight years, Condoleezza Rice dealt with the Beltway punditry and the access-craving White House press corps. The reception she got, with a handful of exceptions, was fawning. Which leaves her totally unprepared for a return to an academy populated with the Daily Show generation: bright young minds with a very critical attitude towards the last eight years. In a meeting with Stanford students at a dormitory reception on April 27, the school’s former provost got off to a shaky start and ended in a train wreck. She may in fact have her last words in the exchange quoted back to her some day in a law court.
And he provides this You Tube so you can watch it and also draw your own conclusions, which may differ from his (and mine):
The unfortunate part for Rice is that she forgot that anything said can be captured and put on the Internet and become part of her permanent resume and the record. This video plays a bit like something you’d hear from a defensive official from the Johnson or Nixon administration.
Can she go home again? Yes. But this time not like a parent or respected Aunt. She’ll just be one more relative sitting at the Thanksgiving table who could be grilled — with out deference — from other blunt spoken relatives sitting at the table.
So she better be ready to be peppered with nosy questions she might not like — and be fully prepared to answer them and lay them to rest.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.