Jay Leno asked Condoleezza Rice to give her opinion regarding the kerfuffle over Dick Cheney’s outspoken criticism of BaracK Obama and his policy team, especially on national security. Instead of backing Cheney, the former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State instead told Leno that she knows how it feels to have critics “chirping” from the outside — and that any advice she gives will come privately or not at all (via Christopher Weber):

I know what it’s like to have people chirping at you when they perhaps don’t know what’s going on inside. These are quality people. I know them. They love the country. And they won’t make the same decisions, perhaps, that we did. But I believe they’ll do what they think is best for the country and I’ll give my advice privately and keep it to myself.

Watch the whole clip from NBC, as Leno gives Rice an opportunity to defend the Bush administration and the effort on terrorism, and she does it well. Rice also rebuts the “wasted opportunity” meme by reminding the audience that America had to defend itself, and that took precedence over worrying about whether we were loved or not. Watching Americans jump to their deaths from 80 floors up and higher tends to focus people on the issue of national security.

Rice gets it right on Cheney, but for the wrong reasons. “Chirping” at politicians come from disagreements on policy, and every American can speak to that. I think it’s bad politics (and another step away from a good tradition, of which Al Gore is more guilty) for Cheney to assume the lead in public Republican opposition to Obama’s policies, and that Republicans need the space to groom the next generation of leaders, and hopefully really soon. To dismiss Cheney’s criticisms as “chirping” and suggest that a man who had been at the forefront of national-security policy doesn’t understand the issues is flat-out wrong.

Update: The First Mate wondered what Rice was saying on the clip. After I explained to her that Rice thought former administration officials shouldn’t criticize a current President from the sidelines, she replied, “Oh, like Jimmy Carter?”

We’ve got to get her blogging …