Yesterday, Abercrombie was particularly critical of Rice, the former national security adviser, whom Abercrombie described as "the most overrated, underperforming individual in executive authority that I have ever seen."
"She constantly gets a pass. Who knows if the whole question of race and gender come into it, but … I can't account for it, except to say she isn't up to the mark," Abercrombie said.
That's rude… and, uh, true. The ascension of Rice to Colin Powell's old job got a little less fanfare than the Pelosi coronation, but it got a lot of fanfare. I don't even think she was sworn in for a month when websites were launched pushing her as a presidential candidate. This was enough for Tim Russert to ask her in March 2005—after two months as secretary of state—whether she would run for president. So she's overrated. And has she underperformed? Well, how's that Middle East doing these days?
Inarguably, Rice's blackness has created her hype and innured her from criticism, both serious and stupid. As Jesse Walker pointed out last year, conservatives mounted a campaign against a community college professor for including Rice and a watermelon in a math problem. They succeeded in getting the school to bolster its speech codes. (She didn't even eat the watermelon, which made the controversy even stranger.) So, yes, she gets a "pass."
I mentioned Rush Limbaugh up above because any outrage over Abercrombie's comment (which is, so far, largely theoretical) recalls the outrage that got Rush Limbaugh kicked out of sportscasting. In 2003, he claimed that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was overrated because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." But this is, arguably, true. I am a lifelong Eagles fan, and over the last month have watched the team play with backup QB Jeff Garcia. To the shock of the entire Iggles Nation, the team is doing better now—it went from losing to the Colts, for the love of all that's holy, to winning its last six games and clinching the NFC East title. The point: It shouldn't be taboo to point out that a black secretary of state or QB is not living up to the hype. Actually, where secretaries of state are concerned, it's probably important to point that out.