October 18, 2018

Condi’s cost per minute

Forget whether former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was paid more or less than her predecessor, Bill Keller.  I want to know why Condoleezza Rice was paid more than Condoleezza Rice.

Rutgers University offered $35,000 to George W. Bush’s national security advisor and secretary of state to speak at its commencement exercises on Sunday.  But just a few weeks ago, Rice got $150,000 for giving a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

As it turned out, pushback from some Rutgers faculty and students caused Rice to bow out, saying she didn’t want to be a “distraction.”  Still, she had accepted their lowball offer in the first place.  Why the deep discount? Was she planning to be 80 percent more platitudinous in New Jersey than in Minnesota?  Or maybe it was a pro rata deal, and she going to speak for 14 minutes in New Brunswick instead of the hour she talked in Minneapolis.

It couldn’t be that she was embarrassed to have had such a good payday at the Humphrey School.   Her 150 bills is apparently what the graduation market will bear.  As “>points out, at one of them Rove recently theorized – to Gibson’s thundering silence – that Hillary Clinton suffered traumatic brain damage. 

Rice’s Minnesota tab was picked up by the Carlson Foundation, so no tuition dollars were harmed in putting on the event, though money is money, and arguably the dough that went to her might instead have gone to student scholarships, faculty salaries or a century’s supply of Cremora® for the U of M’s lounges.  But her Rutgers fee – which her replacement, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, has waived – would have come from a public university’s revenue, not from a benefactor, which means that anyone who paid for a parking pass or a student fee this year might have been able to claim some pride of ownership if she’d shown up.

But the controversy over Rice’s Rutgers gig hasn’t so much been about money.  Instead, it’s turned on free speech (intolerant liberals won’t let conservatives speak truth to them), academic integrity (bubble-dwelling lefties should welcome an intellectual challenge) and pre-emptive nostalgia (don’t spoil my family’s graduation memories with politics).  A respectable case against inviting her in the first place is that honoring Rice, as “>Don’t Look Back doctrine.  When it comes to national security, he told George Stephanopoulos a few days before his inauguration, “what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.” Turn the page.  Which meant no accountability for W, nor for Vice President Cheney, nor for Karl Rove, nor for Donald Rumsfeld, nor for Condoleeza Rice. 

When she testified before the 9/11 commission, co-chaired by her Rutgers understudy Tom Kean, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste asked her about the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB – the president’s daily briefing – headlined, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.”  Why didn’t she act on this threat? Oh, no, “This was not a ‘threat report,’ ’’ she replied. The PDB “did not warn of any coming attack inside the United States.”  It’s just “historical information,” she said.  You know: “Bin Laden Determined” doesn’t mean “Bin Laden Is Determined”; it means “Bin Laden Was Determined.”  That’s the best she could do.  That’s all she’s ever been asked to do.  Why should that get in the way of a fine American university’s laundering an martyk@jewishjournal.com.