American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi Review

![Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gestures during her last briefing at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)](/content/uploads/CondiRice.jpg)
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gestures during her last briefing at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
While watching American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi, I found myself time and time again asking myself whether the filmmakers were actually serious. They were. The film portrays Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, as a power-obsessed, inadequate, ruthless man-charmer. To say that the film was unfavorable towards Rice would be a gross understatement. It is truly an attempt at character assassination.

The film divides her life into four sections: childhood, college, Stanford, and the Bush Administration. Within each of these sections, the filmmakers choose one aspect or event, warp its meaning and implications, and use it to build up their image of Rice as arrogant, power-hungry, cold, and even murderous.

The film begins its attack on Rice’s character by recalling that at the age of 6, despite living in the segregated South, the future Secretary of State vowed that she would someday work in the White House. Even at the age of 6, she knew exactly what she wanted to achieve. Rather than admiring this great ambition, the filmmakers paint her belief that she, a black female, could get anywhere near the White House as shameless arrogance.

Jumping to Rice’s college years, the film asserts that Rice was spellbound by Joseph Stalin’s ability to out-maneuver his political enemies to amass power and control. Due to the way the film lays out its clips, the viewer is led to believe that because Rice marveled at Stalin’s rise to power, she clearly wanted to emulate those feats herself. This assertion holds little weight, however, since accepting its logic would mean that every scholar who studies Mao Zedong or Hitler harbors a secret ambition to mimic them.

Moving on to her career at Stanford, the film criticizes Rice’s opposition to affirmative action and depicts her actions here as cold and heartless. The film holds that as a black female, Rice was an ideal choice as Provost—she brought two levels of brag-worthy diversity to the staff and to the campus as a whole. She was a clear beneficiary of affirmative action, so how could she possibly oppose it? Surprisingly, the film does include an explanation from Rice: affirmative action is not an ideal institution because it holds that women and minorities are less capable than others and need an extra boost to achieve success. Instead of whining and asking for special treatment due to her status as a woman and a minority, Rice has used that very status as motivation to work harder and prove herself to those who would doubt her abilities.

As the film shows, however, many others on campus did not share her sentiments regarding affirmative action. When trying to eliminate Stanford’s $20 million deficit, she fired a Dean of Students who happened to be Latina. This provoked hunger strikes and protests on campus. In response, Rice stood fast and refused to lie down at the feet of the self-starved students. For that, the commentators in the film label her as “cold-hearted.” Yet the film makes no mention of the fact that Rice did bring Stanford a $14 million surplus after just two years as Provost. Her ability to make difficult but necessary decisions helped place this university in healthy financial standing. That was leadership, not cold-heartedness.

Regarding her term as National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State within the Bush Administration, the film goes so far as to attach numerous deaths and events to her personally, including: 9/11, the CIA’s intelligence on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the 2007 Blackwater incident. Rice, they say, actively ignored, avoided, and lied about evidence, and later dodged questions and prevaricated to avoid fault. Amazingly, the filmmakers even question whether she had chosen to ignore her devout Christian beliefs in favor of encouraging torture and committing murder.

American Faust is a propaganda film. That is clear. Its filmmakers’ primary goal seems to be to prevent Dr. Rice from smoothly transitioning back to Stanford’s campus, simply because they and some upset students disagree with her views. This campus should be proud to welcome Dr. Rice back to help fill its glaring gap in diversity—intellectual diversity. Instead, the protesters and activists on this campus prefer to wrap themselves in the blanket of their own hot air, and are using this film in an attempt to prevent Stanford from taking advantage of a huge asset. Universities are intended to be institutions of debate and engagement, not fist-banging and defamation. The Stanford community should think about that and try it some time.

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