As it turns out, the next vice president of the United States won’t be married to an Oak Bay grad.
On Tuesday, political betting sites – yes, there are such things – listed Susan Rice as the favourite to become Joe Biden’s running mate, but no, the Democratic presidential candidate chose Kamala Harris instead.
Not that Rice’s Victoria-raised husband, Ian Cameron, sounded devastated by the decision.
“It was a real honour to have gone through the process,” he said, on the phone from their home in Washington, D.C., sounding very much like someone used to the world of high-level diplomacy, which he is. Rice was a pillar of the Obama administration, which is one reason why, despite never having held elected office, she found herself among the women being vetted for the second slot on the Democratic ticket. The couple know how Washington works.
Still, Cameron acknowledges, it’s nothing he dreamed of while growing up on Vancouver Island.
He comes from a well-known family. His grandfather was a Texan who moved to Victoria and became a big deal in forestry and shipbuilding. Ian’s father, Newton Cameron, founded his own company, Victoria Plywood, in 1950. Newton and Marjorie Cameron were married for almost six decades before dying within five months of one another in 2008.
Ian went to Oak Bay High, where he was student council president in 1979, before attending Stanford University, which is where he met Rice in 1983. They went on to have a long-distance relationship — Cameron worked in television in Ottawa, earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, then became a producer for the CBC’s current affairs show The Journal in Toronto in 1988.
Rice, a Rhodes scholar who earned a doctorate at Oxford, joined him in Toronto a couple of years later, taking a job with some management consultants. In a CBC interview last year she told Adrienne Arsenault of the impact legendary CBC host Barbara Frum had on their lives: “She was a real champion of our impending marriage and very enthusiastic about it.” Rice got cold feet, though, wasn’t certain she was ready to commit — something she wasn’t sure of until the morning in 1992 when she switched on the radio and learned that Frum had died. “It made me realize this was a relationship I wanted to be in for the rest of my life, that she was right about the fact that we were right together,” Rice told Arsenault.
“Barbara was really attached to Susan and Susan was attached to Barbara,” Cameron says. Rice and Cameron wed in September 1992.
They moved to Washington, D.C., after she was recruited by the Clinton administration to serve on the National Security Council. Cameron thought they would go back to Canada after a couple of years but “she won the cross-border battle of which country we’d end up in.” He stayed with the CBC in Washington until 1998, when he joined ABC News, working as senior producer at World News Tonight before becoming executive producer of This Week With George Stephanopoulos in 2008.
He left in 2011, and now spends much of his time doing non-profit work, sitting on boards, tutoring kids.
The couple have a daughter in high school in Washington and a son at Stanford where — shades of Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties — he became president of the Stanford College Republicans.
Rice spent Barack Obama’s first term as the U.S.’s ambassador to the United Nations before becoming the president’s national security advisor. In 2012 she was considered a frontrunner to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, though the job eventually went to John Kerry. There’s a Victoria connection there, too: It was Kerry who hired St. Michaels University School grad Marvin Nicholson for his congressional office. Nicholson eventually moved to Obama’s 2008 campaign team, later becoming White House trip director and, perhaps more importantly, the friend the president would turn to when he wanted to blow off steam by going golfing or shooting hoops.
Cameron said it was “somewhat surreal” to go to the White House during the Obama years and end up talking about Vancouver Island with Nicholson or Obama’s brother-in-law, Konrad Ng, who earned his master’s degree at UVic. Likewise, Cameron found himself swapping Island tales with Diana Krall when the Nanaimo singer performed at the White House. “Victoria is never too far from my mind,” Cameron says.
In fact, it’s a rare year that Rice and Cameron don’t come to Vancouver Island. “We usually get up every summer to visit,” Cameron says. He shares a family place at Shawnigan Lake with his siblings. “There’s nothing better.”
There’ll be no Island trip this year, though. Rice will be campaigning for Biden, with whom she is expected to have a future should he unhorse Donald Trump.
“If she is not chosen as vice-president and Mr Biden wins the election, she could potentially become secretary of state,” the BBC’s White House correspondent wrote this week. On Tuesday, a Reuters analysis floated Rice as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.
She is already a lightning rod for criticism by conservatives, though Cameron says that just comes with the territory. “The thing about Susan is she has taken that before and knows how to deal with it.” Her journey is not over.