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Politics Mondays: Condi And The New Breed by Armstrong Williams



Putting National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 commission and subjecting her to harsh scrutiny regarding the administration's response to the September 11 attacks, is actually helping the Republican party.

Last week the New York Times studded its front page with a picture of Dr. Rice surrounded by a wild pack of reporters. They were jabbing tape recorders and cameras at her, leaning forward en masse like hyenas standing over prekilled carrion. Nightly, our television programs run an endless loop of Dr. Rice responding to questions from the 9/11 Commission.

While all this hubbub has done little to illuminate the events leading up to and directly following the 9/11 attacks, it has reinforced the fact that this administration appoints American blacks to positions of genuine authority and power.

People are responding to that fact, while empathizing with Dr. Rice. This came clear during a recent appearance on Radio One's "Live at Five," with Latoya Foster. Callers were effusive in the admiration for Dr. Rice. "I'm not a Republican, but Condi Rice made me proud," said one caller. "This black lady defended this country," said another.

These callers had a visceral response to seeing Dr. Rice discussing complex foreign policy matters on TV. In her, they saw an alternative to the standard model of black achievement. They saw someone who discusses politics in terms of issues, rather than just race or racial discrimination. They saw a black leader who does not define herself purely an extension of the civil rights movement.

More and more, this is what the younger generation of black Americans want from their leaders. They want people who can discuss politics in terms of issues, rather than solely in terms of race. They want black leaders who have corporate experience, people who can confront the racial economic gap, rather than simply tout the forever victims' tune.

The Democrats aren't offering that (they are married to the old guard).

Into this vacuum has come a new breed, such as Tennessee Representative Harold Ford Jr., Georgia congresswoman Denise Majette, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and Newark's former City Councilman Corey Booker. These are black leaders who talk race, yes, but they also talk about issues like school vouchers, using government funds to support religious charities, and-perhaps most importantly-they supplant the victim theology with a powerful message of individual striving and economic empowerment.

On the national level, we see this shift in the appointments of General Colin Powell as Secretary of State and Condoleezza Rice as National Security Advisor. Every time Dr. Rice answers a question from the September 11 commission, she suggest an alternative to the racial populists; she proclaims that American balcks are masters of their own destiny. She doesn't respond with a stream of outdated racial covenants. She responds with informed discussion of foreign policy. She doesn't talk about getting a seat at the table. She takes charge of the table.

That is a meaningful change, and one that has created a real irony: The more the Democrats use the September 11 commission to assail the Bush Admiration, the more the public understands that the Republican party offers opportunities for blacks that extend beyond all the old covenants, and the more they end up helping the Republican Party usher in a new chapter in the black political narrative.


Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at: arightside@aol.com


Monday, April 19, 2004

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