The feminist establishment, supposedly dedicated to furthering the progress of women, has studiously ignored the nation’s most powerful woman, the Bush administration’s newly appointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has had to battle not only sex discrimination but also racism in her astonishing rise to academic and political superstardom. The National Organization for Women, for example, prefers to lionize Calif. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who badgered Rice mercilessly on the Senate floor and is apparently casting one of the few votes against her confirmation, which otherwise has overwhelming bipartisan support (California’s other Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, was an enthusiastic promoter of Rice, a fellow Californian). Boxer had earlier made a fool of herself challenging the Ohio election results–which was yet another reason for NOW to sing her praises.

Finally, however, an African-American editor of the Washington Post has broken through the wall of partisan hostility against Rice in a surprising column in the Post a couple of days ago. Colbert I. King, deputy editor of the Post’s editorial page, is usually predictably liberal and no fan of Rice’s Republican politics and policies. Yet King seems to have gotten sick and tired of the relentless Condi-bashing from the left of center, bashing that often has a racist tinge. (We’ve noted that ourselves in many posts here on InkWell and on the IWF home page.) In cartoons and on radio talk shows, as well as in Boxer’s Senate-floor inquisition, Rice has been caricatured as a mindless Bush parrot and tame plantation slave (that’s where the racism has come in).

King pointed out that, uh, Rice before she joined the Bush administration was provost at Stanford, one of the nation’s top universities and no bastion of conservatism, either. Here’s what King wrote about Boxer and Rice:

“Boxer said to Rice: ‘I personally believe — this is my personal view — that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth.’ Loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war. Ponder the weight of that statement. It comes close, at least in spirit, to the picture of Rice sketched by political cartoonist Pat Oliphant a few weeks ago. In case you missed it, Oliphant drew a big-lipped, bucktooth Rice perched like a parrot on President Bush’s arm. Bush was speaking to Rice in baby talk, with Rice replying: ‘Awwrk!! OK Chief. Anything you say, Chief. You Bet, Chief. You’re my HERO, Chief.’ 
“It’s hard to imagine a more demeaning and offensive caricature of a prospective secretary of state, let alone the most senior official on the national security staff.”

As King argues, maybe it’s actually the other way around: that it’s Bush, who as Feinstein said, considers Rice to be “brilliant,” might have been more like the parrot, incorporating the results of Rice’s years of foreign-policy research as a Stanford professor into his own views on international affairs and the war in Iraq. As King wrote:

“Bush listens to Condoleezza Rice because he believes that she knows what she is talking about. Which makes the attacks on Rice even more curious. What prompts Rice’s critics to portray her — a former Stanford University provost who managed a $1.5 billion budget, 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students — as a flunky who, when ordered, simply salutes and runs out to play huckster?

“What’s the motive behind this kind of assault? Is it a desire to demean or put her down? Is it a wish to marginalize Rice in the public eye, to suggest that by reason of her intelligence, ability or integrity, she is unqualified to hold her present post or to become secretary of state?…

“The Boxer-Oliphant…take on Condoleezza Rice stands in sharp contrast to the assessment offered by Dorothy Height, chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, who wrote in a letter to The Post this week: ‘Despite the challenges she will face, Ms. Rice’s appointment is a time for women of color to smile.'”

Nice to see, even as the feminist establishment stands absolutely silent on Rice, that some of her African-American brothers and sisters are willing to break ranks and be proud of her.” If I were at Democratic National Committe headquarters, I’d be a little nervous.