Condeleezza Rice Talks to Controversial Sources

Amid mounting criticism from Administration supporters about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice getting advice on the Middle East from former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, her top spokesman called me to explain that America’s top diplomat is “drawing on experience” — and nothing else.

Underscoring the point that Carter “asked for a meeting” with her and she spoke to Clinton by telephone — and that both talked about “the Middle East and other things,” top State Department spokesman Sean McCormack explained that “Secretary Rice is reaching out to people on both sides of the aisle.  People should not read into it anything more.”  McCormack, a former deputy press secretary in the Bush White House, also noted that Rice has spoken to former Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz — and she talks to Schultz “periodically,” he added — to people “in academia with government experience and those who are just in academia.”

“She is drawing on experience,” he told me, and that doing so “makes sense to her.”

McCormack went on to say that Rice wanted “to learn the lessons of history, about things that worked and things that didn’t work.”

When I mentioned that both Carter and Clinton are controversial when it comes to the Middle East — Carter for recent comments in books and interviews that were harshly anti-Israeli and Clinton for the Rabin-Arafat summit over which he presided that was criticized for its emphasis on “land for peace” — McCormack would not come close to criticism of the policies of the two former Democratic Presidents.  In his words, “It’s a different point in time now.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t draw on what happened before.”  Even if what happened before is failure?