Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a closed-door address to a group of Republicans this week, issued a spirited defense of a broader role for the U.S. in the world, saying President Obama’s leadership has left a vacuum that’s been filled by “dictators like Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Vladimir Putin in Russia.”
Speaking at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual fundraising dinner on Wednesday, Ms. Rice also said the party needed to embrace a softer image on immigration and declared school choice “the great civil rights issue of our time.”
But she spent the majority of her time on international affairs, pushing back against the growing strain within the GOP and the country at large that wants to take a more circumspect role in the world. Every time the U.S. does that, she warned, the country’s adversaries advance.
“Right now, there’s a vacuum. There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead. Other things will fill the vacuum,” she said, according to audio obtained by The Washington Times. “But of course it’s not our allies and our friends, it’s not the international norms that have filled that vacuum. It is instead dictators like Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Vladimir Putin in Russia. It’s extremists like al Qaeda raising the black flag in Fallujah in Iraq.”
She did not mention Mr. Obama by name, but blasted both his approach and his specific policies, including the Pentagon’s recent announcement of major force reductions.
Ms. Rice was national security adviser to President George W. Bush when he launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She was elevated to secretary of state in Mr. Bush’s second term.
In her remarks Wednesday, Ms. Rice ranged from the Founders’ belief in revolutionary democracy and the philanthropic and “communitarian” drive in American society to the meaning of the Constitution’s opening phrase, “We the people.”
She said that phrase has always meant embracing immigrants, and she gently chastised her party for falling short on that ideal.
“We are a nation of immigrants,” she said. “And I know it’s hard, but this nation of immigrants has got to remain a nation of immigrants, drawing to its shores the best and the brightest, the ambitious, those who belong with us and who will make ‘we the people’ stronger.”
She also called out what she said was the hypocrisy of those who send their children to private schools but won’t support school choice programs, programs that would let the less wealthy make those same decisions with taxpayer support.
“I don’t understand how you can do that — the height of inequality is the only people left in failing schools would be the poor,” she said.