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

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.


Even if Clinton was convinced—and there’s no evidence that she wasn’t—that Iraq possessed a cache of WMD that posed a threat to Americans, she voted to authorize a costly and clearly avoidable invasion and occupation—and on the way she opposed 23 of her Senate colleagues who voted “nay.”

Here’s what she said at the time; decide for yourself:

The point’s not that Clinton should be shunned from public life because she voted to authorize the war. It’s that it is a pretty dicey game Rutgers professors are playing if they’re only going to single out Rice. Folks assume that academics lean to the left, so no one’s surprised that they’re less than thrilled to have Rice address them.


But before going all in and trying to get her booted off the dais at this year’s graduation, the faculty at Rutgers might consider the precedent they’re setting.

And the double standard they might be applying.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter

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