With Colin Powell leaving the position of Secretary of State, President Bush has decided to elevate Condoleeza Rice to the position, making her the first black female to have this rank. With this new rank comes much responsibility.
Not only is Rice trying to fill the shoes of one the most popular members of Bush’s cabinet, but she also has to be America’s face to the world in a time when the country does not have as many allies as it once had and its policies are more far reaching than ever before. Who is this woman in whom Bush has put so much trust?
Rice was born in Birmingham, Ala. in 1954 during a time of racial segregation. Because of her early experiences with racism she learned that in order to overcome prejudice she would have to be very educated. She proved to be a prodigy and entered college at age 15.
While attending the University of Denver, her interest in Soviet Russia was peaked by Professor Josef Korbel, father of Madeleine Albright. She learned fluent Russian. She graduated college at the age of 19 and became a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control by age 26. Her interest in Eastern Affairs earned her the rank of Soviet Affairs Adviser under the first Bush just as the Berlin Wall fell.
On returning to Stanford in 1993, Rice became the first woman and first non-white provost of the college. There she remained and authored three books, until Bush asked her to become National Security Adviser.
In this role, Rice has been incredibly loyal to the president and has acted as a balance between Powell’s State Department and Rumsfeld’s Pentagon. She has more often than not agreed with the more hawkish Rumsfeld and the rest of the cabinet than with the more moderate Powell.
Some believe that the president chose Rice in order to gain more control over all of his agencies. Some also say that she has not been assertive in dealing with internal conflicts and imposing her will on the president.
This criticism, while valid, ignores one important fact: Rice taught Bush his foreign policy. She was instrumental in forming his plans on the war against terror as well as other issues. So, as long as Bush and the rest of his cabinet already agree with her, there is not much to be assertive about.
Others have said that Rice is too close to the president, citing that she spends much of her recreation time at Camp David and they often watch sporting events together.
But, this closeness is one of her greatest strengths considering how different Powell’s view of global diplomacy is from the president’s.
When the world leaders deal with Rice, they will know that her opinions will be nearly identical to the president’s. Considering the precariousness of foreign politics today, a united front is necessary.
If one only listens to Rice’s detractors then she will be no more than Bush’s yes-woman who will carry out the president’s will unquestioningly. She has been called a number of racial slurs as well, such as “Aunt Jemima,” by certain members of left-wing media because of her support of the president and conservative foreign policies.
But, this is an obviously gross oversimplification of her role and what she means to the president.
In truth Rice is a woman of amazing character and possibly the most learned person available for dealing with Russia and other former Soviet states. Her knowledge of foreign affairs and loyalty to the president make her the most logical choice for secretary of state.
We can expect great things from her in the days ahead.