Putting National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice before the 9/11 commission and subjecting her to harsh scrutiny about the Bush administration's response to the Sept. 11 attacks, is actually helping the Republican Party.
Last week, the New York Times plastered 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 freshly killed 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 their 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 as 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 by issues, not race. They want black leaders who have corporate experience and can confront the racial economic gap without singing the tune of the forever victim.
The Democrats aren't offering that (they are married to the old guard).
Into this vacuum has come a new breed, such as Congressman 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 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.