Rice: We really dodged a bullet in France, n'est-ce pas?

“It’s good news out of France,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CBS’ This Morning today about the election of Emmanuel Macron. “No one, I think, who believes in globalization or immigration or free trade would have wanted Marine Le Pen to win.” That’s … an accurate statement, but Rice also worried that rising populist anger had begun to impact the political center in Europe and the US:

“Nonetheless,” Rice notes, “those issues [driving populism] are still there,” she warned, “and the impulses and the sentiments that have brought populists to power.” The rise of populism should force those who favor globalization and free trade to deal with those issues and connect to the voters who find them important. “Those are the people who feel that they are dispossessed,” she explained, “that they are somehow not being served by their societies and their governments. … You have to deal with the root causes.”

What Rice describes in the change and tenor of politics in Western societies is better known as an Overton window shift. For the last few decades, skepticism about globalization as an all-inclusive winner has been pushed to the political margins by the prevailing culture, media, and politicians, at least here in the US. Both major political parties went all-in on globalization and free trade, even as millions of Americans outside the cultural and media centers watched their jobs dissipate and never return. A few of these manufacturing centers managed to reinvent themselves — Pittsburgh is probably the best example — but a drive through Cincinnati or any number of Rust Belt cities and towns will make it clear that the Pittsburghs are the exception rather than the rule. Add political marginalization to economic marginalization, and pretty soon the ingredients for a combustible mix begin to come together in dangerous ways.

Le Pen was an extreme example of that kind nationalism driven by excesses in globalization and marginalization. Rice is correct that the West dodged a bullet with Le Pen, even though that outcome had been a foregone conclusion all along. But Macron won in large part because of Le Pen’s track record with extremists. Eventually France and other EU nations will start producing more media-friendly nationalists, and if they continue to marginalize those who express any skepticism at all about the outcomes of globalization, those combustible ingredients will go off with a bigger bang when those leaders emerge. The Overton window has shifted, and it’s likely to keep shifting until political leaders follow Rice’s advice and start dealing with the real issues that unfettered globalization creates.

Rice also had a few words about Kim Jong-un for CBS. She considers the latest hereditary dictator in North Korea a “smart cookie,” but also a little nuts — and very dangerous:

In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Rice was asked what she thinks North Korea is trying to accomplish by detaining another U.S. citizen over the weekend. She said that they’re trying to send a message that they’re powerful, strong and can make the U.S. suffer.

“This is not a situation that any president can tolerate,” Rice said, adding that “something has to be done” to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“I think he is reckless and maybe even a little unhinged,” she said, referring to Kim Jong-Un.

This isn’t rocket science, even if the crisis itself is hinged on it. Pyongyang is hostaging as a way to negotiate a better deal down the road. They did the exact same thing to Malaysia after getting caught conducting an “unhinged” and “reckless” assassination in Kuala Lumpur’s airport using a chemical weapon that all but signed Kim’s name to the deed. The hostaging does confirm that this has indeed become a crisis — but it also suggests that it may be one from which Pyongyang wants to extricate itself. The only point of hostaging is leverage for negotiations.