Consider some of the statements that she made concerning a certain world leader and his government (courtesy a Department of State transcript) (note: I've replaced specific name references to the subject country with 'XXX') -
[Rice] But I've continued to make what I think are the essential points. There are issues of human rights and we've been concerned and I've talked a good deal about the problems of individuals, journalists and others, who have had difficulty. But there are also institutional issues, issues about the -- in a presidential system not having strong institutions, countervailing institutions, to the presidency. And I've been very open about the concerns that that raises in any country, not just in XXX but in any country. If you don't have countervailing institutions, then the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development.
QUESTION: They gave a very long list of all the problems they're facing -- NGO restrictions, anti-terrorism measures that are used against political opposition. I mean, did you come away with that given a sense -- with a sense that the U.S. can do anything to reverse it or are you left with this at the end of the your tenure?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I thought that one interesting comment was that, if you remember, we worked very hard on the NGO law, and the comment was that it -- the law itself, like many laws, are not so bad, that the question is really implementation and concerns really that for larger human rights groups who can deal with some of the bureaucratic issues, they can get through them, but concerns about very small human rights groups. And so that's a place to work and to see if we can prevail upon the Russian Government to be more forward leaning and less bureaucratic for smaller groups.
[Rice] But I think this country is in the process of developing its institutions and developing the relationship of those institutions to each other and the relationship of the government to the citizens, and the ability of citizens themselves to engage in meaningful political activities. And so I'm always very concerned that there be space for citizens, XXX citizens, to organize themselves in order to be able to petition their government.
[Rice] This is a country in the midst of a big transition. And I think some of the aspects of that transition have made the YYY-XXX relationship more difficult. For instance, clearly some of the ways in which the oil and gas industry have developed here with very close connections to the politics, with concerns about whether or not contracts are stable, with concerns about the use of energy for political motivation, have introduced strains into the relationship.
[Rice] Ultimately, democratic guarantees come from institutional development. Democratic governance comes from a president who can never be too strong because there will always be a congress or a parliament to check him or her, because there will be an independent media to shed light on what is going on.
[Rice] I've said that I think there's too much concentration of power in the XXX. And I've told the XXX that. I've said it publicly before. Because it's just the absence of -- I think everybody has doubts about the independence, full independence, of the judiciary...but on a lot of very high-profile cases I think there are questions about the independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media...
As most of you probably know, she was talking about Russian President Putin. However, all of the Russian references that were replaced by "XXX" (words like Russia, Russian, Kremlin, Duma) could easily have been replaced with U.S.A, American, White House, and Congress, etc., and the statements would still be accurate.
So, any speculation? Was she being ironic or just clueless?
AP, via CNN.com, coverage here.
A number of other blogs caught this one too - like The Blue State, The One With Aldacron, and The Agonist, among others.
I'd have been quicker with this post, but work beckoned. :))