Friday, February 16, 2007

Condi Rice

The US Secretary of State is, in my view, a very attractive woman. She is also well educated, an accomplished pianist and a skilled manipulator of public opinion. She will have a great career, once she leaves the White House.

But she is not a great Secretary of State. Why? First, she is deceitful. Throughout 2002 and early 2003, Rice repeatedly insisted that the Administration sought a peaceful solution to the Iraq conflict and that war was only a last resort. In October of 2002, she said, “We're going to seek a peaceful solution to this. We think that one is possible” [CBS, 10/20/02]. Then in November of 2002, she said, “We all want very much to see this resolved in a peaceful way” [Briefing, 11/21/02]. In March of 2003, she claimed “we are still in a diplomatic phase here” [ABC, 3/9/03]. However, according to Richard Haas, Bush’s director of policy planning at the State Department, the decision had already been made by July of 2002. When asked exactly when he learned war in Iraq was definite, Haas said, “The moment was the first week of July (2002), when I had a meeting with Condi. I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues. And she said, essentially, that that decision's been made, don't waste your breath. And that was early July. So then when Powell had his famous dinner with the President, in early August, 2002 [in which Powell persuaded Bush to take the question to the U.N.] the agenda was not whether Iraq, but how” [New Yorker, 3/31/03].

On May 16th, 2002, Rice said “I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon. [No one predicted] that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile,"[CBS News, 5/17/02]. But according to the bipartisan 9/11 commission report, “intelligence reports from December 1998 until the attacks said followers of bin Laden were planning to strike U.S. targets, hijack U.S. planes, and two individuals had successfully evaded checkpoints in a dry run at a New York airport,” [Reuters, 7/24/03]. More specifically, “White House officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden's terrorist network might try to hijack American planes.” [ABC News, 5/16/03].

Second, she is not imaginative. This is what David Plotz said in Slate magazine: “Rice is allowed to overshadow Bush because she is exotic: a black, female, conservative foreign policy expert. She stands out in Bush's army of white men, proves that his campaign is not just about good ol' boys. But her celebrity obscures how unexceptional she is. Her ideas, work, and style place her in the absolute mainstream of Republican thought. She is Brent Scowcroft in the body of a black woman.”

Take her stand on the middle east – what is it? Does anyone know. Here we are in the middle of a meltdown – Israel behaving like a colonial, apartheid power and the Palestinians are falling apart. Where is a creative response – not from Condi.

The fact that there is a close personal friendship between Bush and Rice is also of concern – while it’s good to “get on” with the boss, friendship should not limit the directness and honesty of analysis, especially in this position.

She is a weak Secretary of State who, when she chooses to be, is very sexy. Well, at least this makes a change.

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