If Condoleezza Rice ever does run for president, the following line may become very familiar:
"The only problem, of course, was that when the Founding Fathers said, `We the people,' they didn't mean me."
For the past few years, the most powerful woman on Earth has been delivering this clincher. And it gets a gasp every time. I first read it in a speech Ms. Rice gave last week in Birmingham, Ala. Of course, it's a dramatic, even melodramatic, statement -- a testament to the continuing expansion of liberty provided by our 218-year-old Constitution. But Ms. Rice drops it in by way of illustrating the historic flaws of democracy, American-style; and this she drops in by way of dismissing the current flaws of democracy-building in the Muslim world.
It's an awkward exercise, but she's bent on it. "We should note that unlike in our Constitutional Convention, the Iraqis have not made a compromise as bad as the one that made my ancestors three-fifths of a man," she said. Is it politically incorrect to find this statement offensive? Yes, slaves were indeed counted as a fractional person in pre-abolition censuses that determined how many representatives a state would send to the House of Representatives. (Slaveholders, not slavery opponents, wanted a slave to count as one person to augment their state's political power.) But it is the miracle of that 18th-century document that it contained the blueprint for abolition. By contrast, the 2005 Iraqi Constitution (also the 2003 Palestinian Authority constitution and the 2004 Afghanistan constitution) contains provisions for a Sharia state under which all men are not created equal, and freedom of conscience is denied.
But that's not what Ms. Rice sees, and it's her prism that counts. While the president works his way through a string of "isms" (fascism, totalitarianism, communism, Nazism) to place the ideology of Islamic terrorism into context, the secretary of state studies something else: the lessons of the civil rights movement. In the transformation of her hometown of Birmingham from, as she put it, "a place called `Bombingham,' where I witnessed the denial of democracy in America for so many years," the secretary of state seems to see the blueprint for the democratization of the non-democratic, particularly Muslim world.