What a Lovely Non-Answer, Ms. Rice

By Al Kamen
Monday, June 19, 2006

Loop Fans always ask: Is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice really that good at diplomacy? Answer: Yes, she is.

Notice how she handled this curveball last week from Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record reporter Nancy McLaughlin during an interview when Rice was in North Carolina to address the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Recently the [same-sex] marriage amendment failed, and that was disappointing to a number of people here at the convention," McLaughlin said. "Polls say that same-sex marriage is becoming more acceptable. What are your views?"

"Well, look, this is not my area of expertise or, frankly, my area of concentration at this point," Rice said. "I do think that this is an issue that can be debated and can be discussed in our country with respect for every human being. And when we get into difficult debates about social policy, we get into difficult debates that touch people's lives; the only thing that I ask is that Americans do it with a kind of sensitivity that real individuals and real human beings are involved here."

Note: Rice could have brushed her off and said, "Not my job." But she didn't. That would have been discourteous. She could have said she favored such marriages. She could have said she's opposed. Instead, we have a thoughtful, eloquent, satisfying non-answer. That's diplomacy.

Of course, when she's on the road, Rice doesn't have to put up with a bothersome, cynical Washington press corps.

"Well, I won't be disrespectful," McLaughlin said. "I understand that I only had seven minutes."

"I thank you very much," Rice said.

"We love you here in Greensboro," McLaughlin said. "I just wanted to say that with my time."

"Well, thank you," Rice said. "Really nice to meet you. Thank you. Want to take a picture together?"

"Yeah, sure."

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