Is Rice Running In 2008?
It is no secret that the New York Times’s Elisabeth Bumiller is a favored reporter by the White House for her fawning coverage of this Administration. The president and VP know that they can count on Bumiller to stay on the reservation and not do a David Gregory on them, no matter how much they screw up. Bumiller is to the domestic political coverage at the Times what Judith Miller was to the national security beat for this administration, without the kneepads. Bumiller is married to one of the best reporters the Times has, Steven Weisman, who is a solid diplomatic correspondent for the paper.
So despite the ongoing denials from Condi about wanting to run in 2008, it is intriguing nonetheless to see that Bumiller is leaving the Times immediately to spend a year writing a biography of Rice. This has become a cottage industry for reporters over the last several decades, to get out in front as an acknowledged biographer of a future president in order to advance your career. Why would Bumiller want to work on a book about Rice aimed at having it done and ready in advance of the end of 2007 if Rice was just going to fade away after the second term? What does the wired-to-1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Bumiller know about Rice’s future plans?
I would welcome a battle in the GOP in 2008 between Rice, McCain, George Allen, Rudy Giuliani, and whoever else wants to clean up W’s mess, so having Rice lie to us now about her plans, only to see her get the biography and “please save us Condi” treatment she seeks in early 2008 doesn’t bother me. It also doesn’t bother me that Bumiller won’t be writing any wet kiss stories to cover the Administration’s ass for the next year. It is however a big loss for the Times that Weisman is being forced into a different assignment by Executive Editor Bill Keller as a result of Bumiller’s reaching for top-tier punditry in a Rice Administration, as Keller wants to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest between Bumiller’s quest for access to Rice and Weisman’s coverage of foreign affairs.
Some would say that I am presuming too much about Rice’s plans just from Bumiller’s quest for gold. I agree that the true test here would center on whether or not Rice is participating in Bumiller’s book, or is she actively opposing it. But I ask this: would Bumiller be embarking on a book like this, knowing that it has cost her husband his assignment at the Times, if she knew from her sources inside the Administration that Rice was definitely out for 2008?