Condi Rice Muzzles Reporters

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I asked Larry Lyons, a tall Black man, why he was holding up a placard which read, KANYE WEST WAS RIGHT! “Well,� the Princeton doctoral student responded over the din of chants, “I feel like that there are a huge number of groups that aren’t a priority for George Bush, African-Americans, homosexuals, poor people. There are a large number of folks that he isn’t concerned about.� How do you feel about Secretary Rice? I inquired of Gil Smith, an equally animated senior citizen. “She should be fired from her job, because she has practiced deception and has committed a high crime, a war crime, with this illegal war…

When I heard that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was coming to speak here at Princeton University, I figured that this would be my best chance to get someone in the White House to address my readers’ concerns about the state of the nation. So, I applied for press credentials and was dismayed to learn that, first, I would have to be cleared by the State Department.

I thought that my request might be denied, given all the articles I’ve written criticizing not only the Bush administration in general, but Condi specifically. So, I was pleasantly surprised when word arrived that this inveterate rabble-rouser had been approved.

After consulting editors and friends, I arrived at the auditorium early, armed with plenty of probing questions on New Orleans, Iraq, and other pressing issues. Unfortunately, at check-in, I was informed that the secretary would not be fielding any interrogatories from the press, but only from audience, which was comprised of Princeton students and alumni.

Dr. Rice opened with perfunctory prefatory remarks paying tribute to President Woodrow Wilson, since she’d be invited to share in a 75th anniversary celebration of the School of Public and International affairs named after the 28th President. At no point did this presumably learned Ph.D. point out that Wilson had been a Ku Klux Klansman, and went to his grave an unrepentant racist.

On his inauguration day in 1913, an aide announced that since the South now ran the nation, “Negroes should expect to be treated as a servile race.� And it is no secret that Wilson proceeded to implement sweeping social changes which conformed to his attitudes, such as mandating Jim Crow segregation in Washington, D.C. Not only were toilets and cafeterias subsequently segregated, but even Federal offices, a measure which forced thousands of blacks out of work.

Condi, in a well-rehearsed, superficial stump speech (
http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/54176.htm), worked her way seamlessly from Wilson to the present, weighing-in on historic touchstones involving Stalin, Hitler, World War II, German Reconstruction, Japan, the Cold War, Czechoslovakia, the Berlin Crisis, the Warsaw Pact, Afghanistan, the collapse of the Soviet Union, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Al-Qaeda and Iraq. She fielded only four, softball questions (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/54178.htm), posed by people so supportive in tone that they struck this reporter as stooges and plants.

C-Span’s TV coverage of the event gave no hint that the deck might have been stacked, ignoring the anti-Bush sentiments of those chanting in the demonstration raging right outside the building. Since no one was permitted to pose any provocative questions to Madame Secretary, I decided to take my microphone outside to see what some of the passionate picketers had to say.

I asked Larry Lyons, a tall Black man, why he was holding up a placard which read, KANYE WEST WAS RIGHT! “Well,� the Princeton doctoral student responded over the din of chants, “I feel like that there are a huge number of groups that aren’t a priority for George Bush, African-Americans, homosexuals, poor people. There are a large number of folks that he isn’t concerned about.�

How do you feel about Secretary Rice? I inquired of Gil Smith, an equally animated senior citizen. “She should be fired from her job, because she has practiced deception and has committed a high crime, a war crime, with this illegal war. And, therefore, she should just get out of the White House, and take Bush with her, if she can.� I next turned to a middle-aged, white woman, Sue Niederer, and asked her why she wasn’t inside. “They won’t let me in. They won’t let me anywhere near it. They already arrested me at a Laura Bush function. The FBI and CIA really did a number on me.�

I followed-up with whether she had a question for Condoleezza Rice. “If this is such a noble war, face me. And tell me, what your noble cause is. Because my son died for this country, for your lies, and your deceit. It’s not easy for me,“ she added, while proudly showing me a photo of her son Seth, a handsome kid who looked like he was in his early twenties. “That’s who I lost. My little guy was married for only five days before he was deployed out. And now she’s a widow.� When she saw the tears that started streaming down my cheeks, she hugged me, and patted my back, whispering, “You got a heart. This is what we need. We need you to cover us.�

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