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Why Condi Rice Was the Right Choice For Secretary of State

by Tom Parsons [+/-] show/hide

Johnathan Karl, in the April 4, 2005 issue of The Weekly Standard, has written a terrific article entitled "Condiplomacy" that explores why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be so much more effective in her post than her predecessors. This excerpt sums it up pretty well:

If her first months in office are any indication, Secretary Rice's State Department is going to be radically different from Colin Powell's. Rice has forbidden her senior staff to make even off-the-record comparisons between her and Powell, but they don't need to. Rice's senior advisers like to say that she will be an effective secretary of state because when people talk to her they believe they are talking to the president. Powell may have been respected around the world, but he was viewed as out of step with the administration. As a result, when he spoke to a foreign leader, there was often a nagging question: Is Colin Powell speaking for the Bush administration or is he speaking for himself? Nobody asks that question about Condoleezza Rice. So when Rice hits somebody, it stings.

Rice's proximity to the president, combined with the sense of urgency she brings to her new job, has turned the State Department into a political power center again, the kind of place where Karen Hughes, one of President Bush's two or three closest advisers, would take a third-tier job. Even Dina Powell, who as director of White House personnel had no shortage of opportunities in the administration, chose to go to work for Rice as an assistant secretary of state. The State Department has been something of a political backwater for more than a decade. In the Clinton years, Warren Christopher was so inactive that a running joke among Foreign Service officers during his tenure was to complain about something and add, "None of this would be happening if Warren Christopher were alive." Madeleine Albright traveled more, but that only contributed to the perception that she was out of the loop and AWOL when the major national security decisions were being made by the National Security Council. And in George W. Bush's first term, Powell made his biggest headlines when he was at odds with the White House.

Read the whole thing.


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