Condi's always been kept at arm's length by the hardcore neocons like Rubin and the Weekly Standard crowd. Sure, she's got an interventionist outlook on foreign policy, but was she ever belligerent or interfere-y enough? Not really, and plus, they all knew that she was merely a spokesmodel for Cheney and Wolfowitz and company anyway, so whatever, They like her OK.
So why the heaps of praise now? My goodness, Jennifer is declaring Condi to be The New GOP Kingmaker for Republicans who "desire to reassert America's place in the world." (You should be cringing now.) Why the change of heart and all the respect 'n' stuff? The answer is stunningly cynical:
To be blunt, she is a charming and elegant figure, a personality which Republicans are badly in need of featuring. Instead of Sarah Palin as kingmaker, what if Rice became the new go-to Republican with the chops to fundraise and elevate pro-defense Republicans? (In addition to foreign policy, she’s an articulate and impassioned advocate for education reform.) Should she take up that role, she’d have an impact not only in 2014 but in 2016. The more strong-on-defense conservatives (like John Bolton) get into the arena and the more incumbent Republicans understand there are both policy and political reasons to support a forward-leaning foreign policy, the faster the isolationist impulses on the right will evaporate.
So what Rubin is saying is that Condi is telegenic and presentable and popular, and therefore is useful as a soft intro for the real hardcore warmongers. America's Princess Diplomat wedges her Ferragamo in the door, and John Bolton waltzes through.
That's what Jennifer Rubin thinks of Condi: Neocon gateway drug. And here's the really galling thing: she's absolutely 100% correct!