- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

America is ready to elect a black president, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The nation’s highest-ranking black government official, Miss Rice has said repeatedly she will not run for president, despite high popularity ratings and measurable support in opinion polls.

“Yes, I think a black person can be elected president,” Miss Rice said in an interview.

The top U.S. diplomat also said Iraq is “worth the investment” in American lives and dollars. She thinks the United States can win in Iraq, although the war thus far has been longer and more difficult than she had expected.

She made the remarks at a time when President Bush is under pressure from the public and members of Congress to find a fresh course in the long-running and costly war, which has shown no signs of nearing an end after taking the lives of almost 3,000 American troops.

“I know from the point of view of not just the monetary cost but the sacrifice of American lives a lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq,” Miss Rice said.

Mr. Bush would not ask for continued sacrifice and spending “if he didn’t believe, and in fact I believe as well, that we can in fact succeed,” Miss Rice said.

On politics, Miss Rice said the first successful black candidate will be “judged by all the things that Americans ultimately end up making their decision on: Do I agree with this person? Do I share this person’s basic values? Am I comfortable that this person is going to make decisions when I’m not in the room that are very consequential?”

At the same time, she said, “we should not be naive. Race is still an issue in America. When a person walks into a room, race is evident. It’s something that I think is going to be with us for a very, very long time.”

Miss Rice declined to say whether she would like to see her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, become a candidate. Mr. Powell is a fellow black Republican.

“I’m not going to give Colin any advice and he’s not going to give me any advice on this one,” Miss Rice said.

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, is the most prominent black politician to emerge as a potential candidate for the 2008 presidential race.

Miss Rice was asked whether, watching Mr. Obama’s rise, she thinks Americans are willing to put a black candidate in the White House.

Most people tell pollsters that whether a candidate is black doesn’t matter to their votes.

More than eight in 10 black voters in an AP-AOL Black Voices poll say that it would make no difference to them. And other recent polling has found about the same number among the general public voicing that attitude.

Miss Rice said the Bush administration should be remembered for far more than the Iraq war. She recited foreign policy commitments and accomplishments including increased aid to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa and a peace deal ending two decades of North-South warfare in Sudan.

Miss Rice also said she has no reason to think North Korea is serious about dismantling its nuclear weapons. “That’s what we’re testing” in disarmament talks this week.

“They’re signed on to denuclearization” in an agreement last year that was never implemented. “We’ll see whether or not they follow through,” Miss Rice said.

The talks ended yesterday in Beijing with no announced progress.

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