- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2003

How can President Bush ensure a re-election victory next year when his opponent may be New York’s Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton?

One answer is to make a switch in executive positions early next year. The 2004 Republican convention could nominate National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, 49,for vice president and President Bush, 57, appoints Vice President Richard Cheney, 62, to succeed her as national security adviser.

Two big accomplishments here: President Bush still has two of his most effective advisers close to him during his re-election campaign and hopefully during a second term. And he has a splendid potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008 in the person of Ms. Rice.

As for Mrs. Clinton, 56, she looks better and better every day as the would-be Democratic presidential aspirants engage in their listless sparring and pathetic fund-raising. She has received a terrific vote of confidence from her book publication, from her Barbara Walters interview and from her seeming adoption of a centrist political position. She has just announced that her role model is Margaret Thatcher. Yes, Maraget Thatcher, and you can’t be more centrist than that. What next? Milton Friedman as her mentor? And some TV network must right now be planning even greater exposure for the New York junior senator in the form of a three-hour documentary (written, I hope, by Sidney Blumenthal) about the most renowned ex-first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt. And when better to run for the presidency, when you’re in your mid-50s rather than waiting until your early 60s?

A Bush-Cheney ticket against a powerful opponent like Mrs. Clinton is certain to win a smaller percentage of the women’s and African-American vote. With Ms. Rice on the ticket, there is every chance the African-American vote would be split, especially when a Bush victory in 2004 would surely mean a Rice presidential nomination in 2008. And as for exposure, in her few days in the Middle East Ms. Rice was seen and heard on all channels everywhere. And anyone who saw her BBC interview a few weeks ago would have noted that she never put a foot wrong despite some brutal grilling by her obviously anti-American British questioners.

Ms. Rice has one liability that her nomination as vice president would remedy: She has never run for public office. I recall a conversation in Cambridge with the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan while he was still a Harvard professor after several years of government service. I raised the question of his one day running for president. No way. He pointed out that he had never run for public office and that it was rare that anyone without an electoral record could win a presidential nomination. Wendell Willkie in 1940 was an exception, but he lost badly to President Roosevelt running for a third term. The one modern major successful exception to that rule was Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, a hero in World War II and in the post-war peace and a term as president of Columbia University. Mr. Moynihan did run for the Senate in 1976 and was elected four times, but he never pursued what became for him a vague ambition.

Mr. Bush has been one of the most fortunate of modern presidents in choosing the people around him. The most important choice, of course, was Laura Bush, and then follow Mr. Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Ms. Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. By his appointments, Mr. Bush has done more for “diversity” than a dozen New York Times editorials and Supreme Court decisions. And it is now time to open a new dramatic episode in American history, one that would show the world what our democracy means: the choice of an extraordinarily talented black American woman to run for president of the United States on the Republican ticket, the party of Abraham Lincoln.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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