AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Mitt Romney tried to burnish his foreign policy credentials by taking a trip abroad. But there's debate about whether the trip helped his image. Another way Romney could build those credentials is with his choice of a running mate. We've been profiling people who are rumored to be on Romney's list. And today, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
NPR's Michele Kelemen has this story on what she might and might not bring to Romney's ticket.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Condoleezza Rice says she's not interested in the job, and today there's news that she'll be a headline speaker at the Republican National Convention. Still she created a lot of buzz in June when she spoke to Romney donors in Utah. In her speeches, she often talks about America as an exceptional country where she says...
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: A little girl from Birmingham, Alabama, the most segregated big city in America, where her parents can't take her to a restaurant or to a movie theater, but they have her absolutely convinced that she may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworths but she could be come president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes secretary of state instead.
KELEMEN: That little girl also grew up to play piano, performing here with Yo-Yo Ma.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KELEMEN: Condoleezza Rice is a Stanford professor with a background in Soviet Studies. She's also a football fan, who once said her dream job is to be NFL commissioner. There are some obvious things she would add to Romney's campaign, though Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute is not a big fan.
MICHAEL RUBIN: It could make a great deal of sense to bring someone like Dr. Rice on because she adds a great deal of diversity to the ticket in terms of life story, in terms of race, in terms of gender, and also in terms of geography since she now calls California her home.
KELEMEN: But Rubin says she won't be able to deliver California in an election. And he gives Rice poor marks for the way she ran President Bush's National Security Council, during 9/11 and the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
RUBIN: Just the internecine civil war that marked the Bush administration, between the Pentagon and the State Department, was an indication that Dr. Rice wasn't as good a manager, as perhaps she should have been.
KELEMEN: Her reputation improved as secretary of state as she tried to repair alliances frayed over the War in Iraq. Philip Zelikow was one of her top advisers there.
PHILIP ZELIKOW: In addition to her foreign policy background, which naturally evokes memories and arguments from the Bush years, but I think would be a net plus for candidate Romney. She also brings serious interests in many domestic issues, including the future of public education, which is a subject to which she has been devoting a lot of her recent time and energy.
KELEMEN: On other domestic issues, she has gone on record saying she's quote, "mildly pro-choice." And in an exit interview with NPR, as she left the State Department, she sounded enthusiastic about President Obama's election.
RICE: For somebody from Birmingham, Alabama, it's a remarkable thing. I thought I wouldn't see it, I thought I might be 80 before it did. And so, I'm glad that it's happened for our country. It shows that overcoming old wounds is possible.
KELEMEN: She's now come out and criticized President Obama's administration. And her Republican credentials do go way back. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once told NPR that her father was Rice's academic mentor. So when Albright was looking for a foreign policy expert to work on the Michael Dukakis campaign, she called Rice.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: And she said, Madeleine, I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm a Republican. And I said, Condi, how could you be, we have the same father.
KELEMEN: Condi Rice doesn't pass a perfect litmus test of Republican orthodoxy, says Philip Zelikow, who now teaches at the University of Virginia. But he says Rice provides a fresh voice.
ZELIKOW: She believes that she represents what should be the future of the Republican Party.
KELEMEN: Still he takes her at her word that she's not interested in entering this campaign now. Condoleezza Rice told the Heritage Foundation in April that she's often asked how her life is different out of government.
RICE: One of the big differences is that I get up every day and I get my cup of coffee. I go online to read the newspapers. And I read them and I say, isn't that interesting.
RICE: And I'm able to go on to other things because I no longer have responsibility for what's in the newspaper.
KELEMEN: For now, she seems to prefer teaching seminars at Stanford and golfing on weekends.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.