At the Republican convention Wednesday night, there was indeed a lofty, high-minded speech, one that managed to forcefully articulate a conservative world view without cheap partisan attacks or facts stretched to the breaking point. But it wasn't [Paul] Ryan's -- it was delivered by Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.
Rice's address had a sophistication, ease, and grace almost never found in modern political speeches. It was a speechwriter's speech, the kind you could imagine reading in a history book. She spoke with a diplomat's formality and the teleprompter turned off, glancing only occasionally at her notes on the podium.
Most of the speech was a policy argument, starting with foreign policy and moving to economics, but at the end, Rice, more circumspect than emotive, struck a personal note.
"A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America," she said. "Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant. But they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, if she wants to, she can be president of the United States -- and she becomes the secretary of state."
The crowd, rapt throughout her remarks, came to its feet and roared, and you could practically feel the Condi for President buzz sweeping through the collective hearts of the Republican elites. Being pro-choice, Rice's actual presidential prospects might prove tricky, but that's a matter for another day. For now, she has clearly -- and by no accident -- established herself as a political voice.
She also spoke up for foreign aid, compassionate immigration policy, and attentiveness to inequality in education funding that hurts minority students. The crowd applauded almost every line, as though they didn't know that tea party orthodoxy was being gently but firmly rebuked.