Memo to Rutgers: Don’t Boycott Condi Now If You Won’t Boycott Hillary Later

When it comes to Iraq, don’t selectively throw shade.

Condoleezza Rice; Hillary Clinton
Condoleezza Rice; Hillary Clinton FILES/AFP/Getty Images; FILES/AFP/Getty Images

Put me down as a skeptic when it comes to Condoleezza Rice.

Although she’s generally applauded for her barrier-breaking career in public service, as the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state and national security adviser, “her signature ‘achievement’ in public life,” as I wrote a couple of years ago, “was co-signing Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq—one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history.”

It’s not exactly a great résumé item, and it’s probably why she’s faded from view.

And while I wouldn’t put it quite the way they did, I also can’t really argue with the criticism offered earlier this week by the Rutgers University faculty council, who said Rice “played a prominent role in [the Bush] administration’s effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.

It’s why they’re urging their administration to replace Rice, who is keynoting this year’s Rutgers commencement ceremony—which is their prerogative—and they’ve got every right to feel strongly about the issue. A lot of folks probably agree with them.

Rice, of course, maintains that she made the best judgment she could at the time, acknowledging in retrospect that she and her colleagues “could have done better.”

But whether or not the Rutgers faculty accepts Rice’s version of events, if they’re prepared to snub her at this point, then down the road they might also want to prepare to snub Hillary Clinton, because she, too, co-signed the invasion of Iraq.

To be fair, the faculty also points out that Rice “condoned” the Bush administration’s stance on torture—Clinton never voted to authorize that. But Iraq is the political albatross that both Rice and Clinton carry. And if those professors ever get a chance to protest Clinton and they don’t, then they ought to be prepared to explain why they applied a different standard to Rice.

Because no matter how you feel about the way the Iraq War was sold, it’s hard to rebuke Rice—who helped do the selling—if you’re going to turn around and give a pass to Clinton, who voted to approve it.

Sure, as Bush’s national security adviser at the time, Rice likely had better information on weapons of mass destruction (or lack thereof) than Clinton. But it’s not as if Clinton, as a sitting senator, was flying totally blind. She was surely better briefed than, let’s say, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, who had the presence of mind to publicly oppose the Iraq War.