Friday, September 15, 2006

Taking Canada/US relations to the next level(?)

A few days ago, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Pictou, Nova Scotia at the invitation of Canadian foreign minister Peter MacKay. I remember a bit of surprise when I first heard about the trip - after all, Condi Rice just visited Canada in April. And, Pictou is a bit out of the way: a two hour flight to Halifax, followed by a 90 minute drive from the airport. It is not a major city in Canada at all. But, it is Peter MacKay's home town.

It didn't take long for some major news media on both sides of the border (including the New York Times and the Globe and Mail) to begin speculating that Condi Rice and Peter MacKay may have some sort of romance blossoming between them. Some interesting tidbits:
From the Globe and Mail:

At Tim Hortons, Peter MacKay and Condoleezza Rice playfully argued over who should pick up the tab for his tea and her half-regular-half-decaf coffee, black with Splenda.
They wrestled verbally, to and fro, until the clerk behind the counter insisted it was on the house.
From the New York Times:

Then, he said, “Something else I’ve learned about Secretary Rice is she loves the cool Atlantic breezes here in Nova Scotia, and she left the window open last night.” The audience tittered.
At the end of his speech, he took off his glasses, turned to Ms. Rice and said, “Please come back again.”
Ms. Rice, clad in a yellow jacket, black pencil skirt and black heels, also offered plenty of fodder. She repeatedly called Mr. MacKay “Peter” (he called her “Secretary Rice” or “Miss Rice”), confirmed the sleeping-with-the-window-open bit, and told the assembled local leaders that Mr. MacKay had introduced her to his family, including his father and stepmother, the night before.
Family is important, she said, with a sly smile, because “they remind you of the things you did when you were 5 years old.” Beside her, Mr. MacKay grinned and blushed.
The Calgary Sun even went to the extent of hiring a body-language expert to analyze footage between the two. Here is an excerpt:
And while others look for subtle signs, Pease says he sees raw, sexual energy. It's included in the way the two conservatives mirror one another's gestures.
"This is evident in every shot," he says. "(In one photo analyzed) they both show a facial cluster called 'restrained jubilation'. The tight-lipped smile, attempts to conceal the excitement each, particularly (she), feels."

It also doesn't take a lot of analysis to figure the two may be compatible. Both are physically attractive, both are into exercise, both love sports, both are conservative politicians, and both are single. My own suspicion is that they both may be attracted to each other, but likely felt too constrained by their professional roles to do anything about it.

Personally, I would be happy to hear news about Rice and MacKay becoming romantically involved. Condi Rice is a very intelligent and competent woman, and a very hardworking Secretary of State. She is someone I highly respect, and who I think stands a decent chance of being the next president. At the same time, it is a bit sad to see someone with as many good qualities as her sacrifice her own personal happiness just because she worries what the press might write about it, or what the American public might think about it. After all, women politicians always seem to be held to a different standard than men, and while it is okay for male politicians to have lives, female politicians are supposed to be prudes. But, I really think this mentality is based on outdated notions that are overdue to be discarded.

In reality, I suspect this kind of publicity would not hurt either of their careers. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, it may even help her career: it would humanize her in the eyes of the American public, many of whom tend to see her as a technocrat, and help many Americans to more readily identify with her. If she is planning to run for president in two years, this kind of publicity can be valuable.

Of course, all of this is just speculation, and it is difficult to know if these rumors are true. But, it will be mildly disappointing if they turn out to be false...