I know I’ve written this post before but it’s something I’ve been thinking about amid all the “Condi for NFL commissioner!” stuff lately. (And besides, after two years, it’s due for an update.) Why commissioner and not GOP nominee? The 2016 field is “insanely wide open,” after all, and she’s got plenty to commend her — sterling academic credentials, years of diplomatic experience at the highest level, popularity among both wings of the GOP, and a trailblazer narrative that can trump even Hillary’s. She’d be seen, rightly or wrongly, as the “adult” in a field of Republican neophytes, someone whose gravitas all but the most Bush-hating doves within the other party respect. If Jeb ends up passing on the race, Bushworld will be desperate for a familiar face to rally behind. What sounds better — Romney 3.0 or Condi?
Two obvious, and serious, objections. One: Er, she’s pro-choice. In fact, if you believe the gossip, she’s so steadfastly pro-choice that Romney considered her for VP but then dropped her because she wouldn’t relent. Needless to say, if that doesn’t change, she’d be DOA as a Republican candidate. But … maybe it would change. It changed for Romney between the time he ran for Senate in Massachusetts and his nomination for president, didn’t it? Reagan and Bush 41 were pro-choice once upon a time too. GOP voters are remarkably forgiving of earlier heresies, even on crucial issues, for serious candidates who claim they’ve since seen the light. (John McCain turned into a border hawk in time to win the 2008 nomination before reverting to form once he was back in the Senate.) Maybe Condi’s so adamantly pro-choice that she’d refuse to recant even if it cost her a chance to become the first woman and second black president. But maybe not; she sure doesn’t sound like a committed abortion warrior in the clip below. No president is going to have much sway over abortion policy anyway except in their judicial appointments. If Condi’s willing to appoint pro-life judges, she’d be acceptable.
Second objection: Iraq, stupid. What kind of suicidal party nominates one of the most visible faces of a war whose enormous unpopularity handed both Congress and the White House to Democrats? That’s a serious concern, but I’d take it more seriously if the GOP establishment wasn’t set to nominate … the brother of the guy who presided over that war. Truth be told, everyone in the Republican field besides Rand Paul, including and especially the McCain-esque Marco Rubio, will run as a loud and proud interventionist. (Ted Cruz will oppose nation-building but he’ll be all for bombing bad guys various and sundry too.) Which makes sense, given that Republican voters are themselves trending back towards hawkishness. Meanwhile, the likely Democratic nominee not only voted for that same war in Iraq but is already positioning herself for 2016 as someone so hawkish that her big problem with Obama’s Syria policy is that he didn’t move to arm the rebels quickly enough. Condi could present herself — not untruthfully — as, yes, an interventionist but someone who acted as a diplomatic moderating influence on Bush in his second term while superhawks like Dick Cheney were pushing him to confront Iran. All of which is to say, I’d be more sympathetic to the “nominating a devout hawk after Iraq is suicide!” argument against Condi if we weren’t pretty much set on nominating a devout hawk — against a Democratic devout hawk — anyway. If you’re that worried about Iraq fallout, nominate Rand and be done with it.
For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen any recent polling on Condi but as of December 2012, no major Republican except Christie had a favorable rating comparable to hers. And Christie now isn’t what Christie was then, needless to say. Exit question: Is her reluctance about running mainly about not wanting to field “How come you aren’t married?!” questions for the next six years? I think the media would tread lightly there, but they’d tread.