Friday, September 14, 2007

Condi's "Closest Female Friend"


Yesterday on the show I had an interesting conversation with Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler, whose new book is The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy.

There have long been questions about Rice's sexual orientation and her personal life in general. As Kessler notes, "She has built a wall of privacy around her that is never breached." But Kessler had access to Rice's closest friends and to Rice herself, and he reveals some eyebrow-raising information that hasn't been out there before.

In the book and on the show, Kessler described how Rice's "closest male friend" is openly gay, a man by the name of Coit D. Blacker, a Stanford professor (Rice was provost at Stanford in the late 1990s for six years) and a Democrat who served in the Clinton administration. Blacker, whose partner is also mentioned, advised Al Gore's campaign in 2000, while his close friend Rice became a chief confidante to a president who has tried to make gays into second class citizens in the U.S. Constitution. But wait, it gets better.

Rice's "closest female friend" is a woman named Randy Bean (pictured here), who is unmarried and whose sexual orientation is not stated. She is described as a "liberal progressive;" she's a documentary filmmaker who works at Standford University and once worked for Bill Moyers. She and Rice and Blacker (again, who has a partner) are discussed as a "second family," a term Bean uses, also saying that, "on friends, [Rice] goes narrow and deep."

According to newly revealed information in the book (which Kessler found through real estate records), the two women, Rice and Bean (yes, hilarious), own a home together and have a line of credit together. Bean explains this to Kessler by saying that she had some medical bills that drained her financially years ago, and Rice and Blacker helped her out by buying the house with Bean. But over time Blacker sold his share of the house to Rice and Bean, and then Rice would later get the line of credit with Bean to do some renovations on the home. Kessler, when pressed, said he did not know if this meant there was something more to the relationship between the women beyond a friendship.

Where to begin?

For the record, in the book Kessler goes into the long-discussed rumors about Rice and the few times her sexual orientation has been gossiped about or discussed in the media, but he also talks about how single, older (heterosexual) women often "unfairly" have their sexual orientation questioned, and says in the book that Rice has been the target of "nasty attacks" in this regard. He mentions that she was linked to a man once -- back in college. Even if Rice is heterosexual, however, it is fascinating and mind-boggling that this woman whose best male friend is an openly gay liberal and whose best female "friend" is a "liberal progressive," would work for a president who has opposed every gay rights initiative and tried to enshrine religious hatred in the Constitution. What does it say about them as well?

Kessler, who is even-handed (and the bulk of whose book is about foreign policy, where he offers many interesting new insights, which we also discussed at length), reminded me that Rice doesn't work on the domestic side and only works on foreign policy, so she can't be held responsible for Bush's positions on those issues. But to me, that's like someone who worked for Mussolini saying, "I only helped to get the trains to run on time." (Though Rice hasn't even been that effective.)

Oh, and I thought you'd get a kick out of this passage:

After she became secretary of state, she came to a party at Blacker's house, kicked off her shoes, and began dancing through the night to rock and and roll. Blacker, who is gay, wanted to show his partner how tight her behind is; he postulated that if he aimed a quarter at her butt, it would bounce off like a rocket. He was right. Rice, who was dancing, didn't realize what he had done until everyone began laughing hysterically. She was flattered -- and proud.