WASHINGTON-- As a former Secretary of State and National Security adviser, it's not every day Condoleezza Rice chooses to talk domestic policy over foreign issues. And as a scholar with a Ph.D. in political science, it's not every day that she chooses to talk politics over policy.
But on Monday night during a super PAC fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club, a private hangout for Republicans only steps from the House office buildings, Rice wasn't shy about diving into both.
Rice, whose post-Bush years have been spent mostly at Stanford University, is making her voice heard in political circles again. Just days after reportedly bringing down the house with a powerful speech at a Utah retreat with Republicans donors for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, Rice flew to Washington to headline a fundraiser for ShePAC, a new super PAC that supports conservative female candidates. The appearance was notably her very first DC fundraiser for a political outside group, complete with a private foreign policy briefing with sitting female lawmakers and Republican House and Senate candidates from across the country.
While Rice spoke to the candidates on the third floor of the club, about 150 ShePAC supporters waited in a reception room downstairs, noshing on a spread of roast beef, glazed ham, sweet potato puffs and watermelon soup while bartenders poured glasses of whiskey, vodka and wine in the back.
Introduced as "the smartest woman in the world," Rice emerged from a side kitchen to address the group.
Over the course of about 10 minutes at the lectern, she focused her speech on a need for domestic reforms and called for a change in executive leadership.
"This is a truly consequential election. This is perhaps a turning point for the country. I'm very often asked to speak about the foreign policy aspects and there are some key important foreign policy issues before us," Rice said before briefly listing a series of challenges abroad. "There are many foreign policy issues on the agenda, but we are not going to address any of those international challenges unless we get it right at home. And it's not right at home right now, and the American people know it."
She went on to tell her own story of a child who grew up in the segregated South whose parents encouraged her to seek an education. Rice lamented what she sees as changing attitudes about opportunities for success in the United States and--without calling him by name--criticized President Barack Obama for announcing that his administration would selectively enforce immigration laws.
"Americans who come here from other places to be a part of that belief that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things, which is why we need an immigration policy that works," Rice said. "But, by the way, we need one that the Congress and the president work out together, and we need to do something about access to education."
Rice, whose name is increasingly coming up as a possible candidate to become Romney's running mate, ended her talk with a shout-out to the former Massachusetts governor.
"America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect, and we're going to do it again," she said. "We're going to strengthen ourselves, our democracy at home, we're going to strengthen our economy, we're going to do it with great leadership like the people in this room and like Governor Mitt Romney, who will be a terrific president."
When she finished, Rice promptly exited through a side door without talking to reporters waiting nearby. As she walked toward a vehicle waiting in an alley, an aide said she would not be answering questions because she had a scheduled appearance on Fox News later that night and wanted any new comments to be exclusive to the network.