I wonder if Condoleezza Rice was surprised by the headlines over her comment to The Washington Times that America suffers from a national "birth defect" -- namely, the practice of slavery at the time of the nation's founding.
Make that the first founding. She said she considers the civil rights movement to be the nation's "second founding." The secretary of state made another point. She said "one of the primary things" that attracted her to the candidacy of George W. Bush "was not actually foreign policy." Rather, she explained, "it was No Child Left Behind." She continued: "When he talks about `the soft bigotry of low expectations,' I know what that feels like."
Rice has actually said all of this before, including more emphatic remarks on No Child Left Behind and "soft" bigotry. "I've seen it. Okay?" Rice said in 2005 to The New York Times. "And it's not in this president. It is, however, pretty deeply ingrained in our system and we're going to have to do something about it." Rice offered as an example her own high school teacher who suggested she was junior college material.
Maybe someone should inform the secretary of state that being underestimated, turned down or shunted aside is, alas, part of the human experience, not the exclusive function of race. But it's probably too late for that. As secretary of state -- not, say, secretary of education -- Rice has long been doing "something about it" on the world stage. Instead of different states and school systems, she's been working with different countries and belief systems. Suddenly, things about the Rice Doctrine -- better, the No Country Left Behind Doctrine -- begin to fall into place.
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