It is reasonable to consider a Canadian’s endorsement of any candidate for the Vice-presidential ticket presumptuous. First, I have no voice and no citizenship in the choice. I have no history in the Democratic Party. I have no friends, business or professional associates in the party. I have no investments in the U.S. And, I have no credentials as an academic, a pollster, a political scientist, nor as an “expert” of any kind.
Nevertheless, none of these caveats seem sufficient to prevent my bashing into the prospect of a full-throated, uninhibited and unrestrained (if mute and literally emasculated) nomination of one Susan Rice, to be Biden’s pick for the number two spot on the presidential ticket.
Much time and ink has been dedicated to her extensive and professional service in the Obama administration, in several roles, primarily focused on national security and geopolitics. As former Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, puts it, “Susan Rice has a ‘black-belt’ in diplomacy.”
It is not only in diplomacy in which Ms Rice has a black-belt. She has an intellectual capacity that produced the best doctoral thesis at Oxford, not only for her own class, but for an extended period of modern history. It is not only that Ms Rice has a depth of understanding of how government works, and what those specific impediments to its fruitful functioning look like and need to be confronted. Ms Rice is the only candidate who brings a full portfolio of biographical chapters in international relations in comparison with each and all of the other potential names being considered.
Ironically, as Biden was chosen as Obama’s VP at least in part, because he offered several decades of Washington experience, knowledge and personal relationships to a relative neophyte senator at the time, supplementing Obama’s resume with what the media termed “gravitas” or in other words, trustworthiness, Biden’s choice of his own number two is being made when the world faces what amounts to a plethora of international issues, all of them crying for the leadership, mentorship and championship of the United States of America.
It is true that the immediate need of the Biden presidential campaign is to secure an unmolested, unprotested and unequivocal victory in the election in November, and that need demands a voice of substance, reason, and a degree of combativeness to counter the propaganda campaign of fantasy facts, untruths, conspiracy theories, foreign interference in the basic functioning of the electoral system, including the disinformation campaign in social media. So, to answer Congressman Clyburn’s plea for a choice with passion, and with the capacity to withstand the rigors of the undoubtedly viscious, politically violent and expectedly strategies and tactics for a mob-war, there are really three black female candidates who meet all of the immediate criteria: their names are Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, and Susan Rice. While Karen Bass comes with respectable political credentials, as former speaker of the California State Legislature in the time of the governorship of Swartzennegger, at 66, like Elizabeth Warren at 70, she does not offer the prospect of a new generation candidacy.
Given that Biden, if successful, will be the oldest person ever elected to the Oval Office, the mere fact of his age on his birth certificate says that there is a reasonable, if lamentable chance he might not be able to complete his term. And, given that Biden himself has committed to nominating a woman, and given that the preponderance of public (and certainly Democratic Party) opinion recognizes, respects and seeks to honour the significant and singular contribution of black women in the recent electoral successes of the party (2018, especially), the narrowing of the choice to Harris, Abrams and Rice brings us to the next aspect of our endorsement.
Stacey Abrams, a graduate in law from Yale, a Georgia legislator and leader of the party in that body, and more recently an avid organizer and activist in extending legitimate and threatened voting rights across both her state and the nation, offers a highly articulate, highly combative and highly credible candidate for the position of either Attorney General or Secretary of Education. It is through deepening the resources, the political and fiscal attention of the nation to the needs of both government departments, that voting rights, and the long-term view of levelling the playing field for black generations threatened by exclusion, isolation and perpetual poverty and racism can be advanced, And who better than Ms Abrams to take up the life-long commitment of former Congressman John Lewis?
As for Kamala Harris, another combative, articulate and experienced campaigned and former Attorney General of California, she seems highly qualified for the obviously desperately needed transformation of the Justice Department, now in shambles administratively and ethically, following the sycophancy of William Barr to the president and his gang. Certainly needed and resourceful as a surrogate campaigner, as are the other potential vice-presidential picks, Ms Harris’s talents should not be vaulted into the inner circle of the administration. Lawyers, while highly nuanced in their interpretations of law, and in the administration of the law, are different in both temperament and in training/education/formation than the training/education/formation of an international relations scholar.
Susan Rice is, without doubt or equivocation, an acknowledged scholar of international relations, with a perspective not only on the history of how the United States has been and potentially can and will be again, a “lighthouse” in the dark and windy storms of geopolitical hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts and fires that currently threaten the stability of the international order.
It is not only that the international order is being threatened by the inappropriate, narcissistic and opportunistic decisions of the trump administration, so too is the very survival of the planet, including the very existence of millions of people now underfed, and the projected millions who face starvation in part as a consequence of the pandemic, and the inequality that plagues the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s among the world’s population.
New, vigorous, vibrant, and sustainable coalitions, treaties, banks, legal frameworks and security apparatuses are urgently needed and will continue to provide opportunities for the leadership of the United States, in a world in which the U.S. courage, creativity, boldness and depth of geopolitical experience and leadership have been missing at least since 2017. Repairing relationships of trust, rebuilding bridges of security and intelligence sharing, restoring the vitality of the United Nations and expanding and revamping the processes of the Security Council, will have to be undertaken by a leader of vision, experience, forbearance and courage. This leadership, given that the President himself will be intimately engaged in addressing the pressing and even the existential threats to American families, the economy, the health care system, the education system and the transformation of the justice system, can and will only come (from the perspective of August 2, 2020, some 90+ days prior to November 3) from a vice-presidential candidate of the stature, experience, temperament, stability and endurance of the former National Security Adviser.
Ms Rice is intimately familiar with the presidential daily brief (PDB) and has participated in its preparation. She is intimately familiar with many of the world leaders and their understudies, as well as with the relationship between the Congress and the administration’s initiatives in foreign relations. She knows intimately how and when to prepare and present a brief to the Foreign Relations Committees. She knows how and when to negotiate with a nation like Iran, with which nation the trump administration has abandoned the nuclear accord. She has proven her capacity, willingness and intrepid confidence to tell the president the truth even when that truth is rightfully deemed hard to hear, to absorb and to address.
Even in Canada, ordinary people are watching the daily misadventures of Washington, including their implications for our lives as citizens sharing a continent, an extensive unimpeded border, and a trade, health and political culture of co-operation going back centuries. And many Canadians share the perspective both that international relations, as a file whose global importance grows daily, is in “poverty” without the active, positive and supportive, as well as collaborative participation of the United States.
While no single individual can be expected to fill the vacuum both in Foggy Bottom (the home address of the emasculated State Department under Mike Pompeo, and trump) and in the corridors of power in capitals across the globe, Mr Biden can and is humbly encouraged, by these words, and by those of many others, to make a first step in restoring both sanity and hope to the world’s people, as well as to the people of the United States, by selecting Susan Rice as his Vice-presidential running mate.
At fifty-five, with the deep reservoir of talent, experience, an boundless circular file of “connections” going as far back as her childhood, when guests like Madeline Albright visited her family home, grand-daughter of slaves, whose parents rose through formal education and diligent ambition to positions of honour and serious contribution to their generation, Ms Rice is the most logical, the most seasoned, the most inspiring and the most transformative candidate for what we all hope will be the Biden administration.
And if this is not a time for both domestic and international transformation, in the multiple, complex and seemingly entangled and challenging array of issues facing the incoming administration, then given the last three-quarters of a century of my life, I do not know a time that qualifies for transformation.
Great crises are great opportunities, according to the old Chinese proverb. We all hope and pray that the presumptive presidential candidate of the Democratic Party seizes the opportunity offered by the gestalt of these many ‘gordion-knot type threats.
Choosing Susan Rice as his running mate offers the most hopeful, trustworthy, dependable and insightful, not to mention amenable, choice as Vice-president, on the Biden-Rice ticket for the Oval Office.