Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th August 2012
As ever, the Republican National Convention is a target-rich environment for fact-checking. This time, it’s Paul Ryan’s speech in particular that has come in for a great deal of well deserved — and unusual* — criticism in the media for Ryan’s outright lies and hypocrisy.
Condoleeza Rice addresses RNC (ABC News); speech as prepared (Washington Post);
speech as delivered (transcript by FOX News)
Condoleeza Rice, by contrast, received accolade after accolade for a speech variously characterized as “professorial,” “statesmanlike, stirring and secure“, even “the sort that gets collected in books, and studied by speechwriters.”
And so Rice appears to have avoided any serious scrutiny for her speech, which — though largely free of Ryan-esque whoppers — contained plenty of half-truths, contradictions, and sleights of hand of its own.
Some of these are perhaps relatively minor (to Americans, if not to the people involved).** But one assertion in particular stood out for me. Rice began, “America has met and overcome difficult circumstances before. Whenever you find yourself doubting us – just think of all the times that we have made the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect.” Then, after invoking the Revolution, the Civil War, and the demise of the Soviet Union, Rice got to her own blow for freedom and the American Way:
“…the willingness to take hard, hard decisions in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time.”
It’s clear enough what she’s talking about. And so we endure, once again, a Secretary of State defending torture despite U.S. agreement with the Geneva Conventions. It’s entirely possible for even undergraduate students — in fact, even 4th graders — to take Condoleeza Rice down on this issue when given a chance. But the American news media generally don’t have the will or the attention span necessary to do so. (I’m reminded of the old Groucho Marx routine with a nincompoop general exclaiming, “Why, a four year old child could understand this! …Run out and find me a four year old child.”)
So maybe TIME’s Michael Scherer was right, maybe Condi Rice’s speech will get featured in a history book some day — as the speech marking the final, all but unnoticed triumph of the Bush/Cheney administration torturers over their adversaries.
(image via warcriminalswatch.org)
* Even FOX News got in on the bashing: Sally Kohn characterized Ryan’s speech as “deceiving”: “On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.”
** For example, while the average news reader may agree that Russia and China are preventing an international response to the civil war in Syria, it’s also true that U.S and Turkish intransigence about Assad stepping down before talks begin has been a position designed to get “no” for an answer. Some of Rice’s comments were the kind of familiar, somewhat eye-rolling pablum about America’s central, allegedly indispensable, always benign and freedom-loving role that we’re likely to hear again from, say, Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention in Charlotte; others were more on the order of “but, but you just said,” e.g., talking about her life under Jim Crow after talk of a “second founding” overcoming the scourge of segregation.
UPDATE, 8/30: Peter Beinart (Daily Beast) and Fred Kaplan (Slate) also critique Rice’s speech, though not for the “hard decisions” language. Beinart points out the lack of any discussion of Iraq. Kaplan says Rice is off base about ‘failure to lead’ because of things like Obama’s favorable ratings overseas and the Libya intervention, which Kaplan believes was done rightly.