- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Who would have predicted in 1954, the year of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, that in less than half a century two distinguished black Americans (and one of them a woman at that) would be sharing foreign policy decision-making with the president of the United States? Perhaps Martin Luther King might have included such a prophecy in his "I Have a Dream" oration.

In any case, few could claim that President Bush's two appointments were the result of affirmative action. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was an earlier national security adviser, and Condoleezza Rice have outstanding records of public service, plus a special achievement for Miss Rice: The national security adviser is so superb a pianist that a few years ago, at his invitation, she accompanied Yo-Yo Ma, the world's greatest cellist, at Constitution Hall in a public performance of the Brahms violin sonata No. 3 in D (arranged for cello). Not even the redoubtable Henry Kissinger, one of her predecessors, could match that feat.

In "Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story," a little too worshipful biography, Antonia Felix makes two facts of life luminously clear: the importance of a stable family in a child's development, and, second, the importance of parents in introducing their offspring to a world of expanding educational opportunities. Miss Rice, according to the biographer, had the immeasurable benefits of both circumstances. (There are three generations of college-educated family members.) And to be remembered, she was born and spent her childhood in what was once the most segregated city in the South, Alabama's Birmingham also known as "Bombingham" because of its violence against blacks.

"Condi's parents went to great extremes to shield her from the horrors of segregation," writes the biographer, "and devoted themselves to her education, providing nearly as much instruction at home as she ever got in a classroom."

Ms. Felix goes into some detail about how Miss Rice became a Republican instead of remaining the Democrat she had been for many years, even voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976. What forced her change of affiliation and a vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, writes the biographer, was what she viewed as Mr. Carter's mishandling of the Cold War. In this regard, I believe that had Mr. Carter been re-elected there would most certainly still be a Soviet Union and a still-burning Cold War. As a National Security staffer in the first Bush administration, Miss Rice brought to the job a scholar's knowledge of the Soviet Union and a working knowledge of the Russian language.

Miss Rice's post had its beginnings back in 1953 with the Eisenhower election. One might argue that Col. House, a close adviser to President Wilson, was a forerunner in this tremendously powerful position. In any case, the national security adviser is an appointment that entails daily personal relations with the chief executive to an extraordinary degree, a relationship over which Congress has no control since congressional confirmation is excluded.

At 48, Miss Rice has reached a peak in a career which, paradoxically, has just begun. She is already being talked about as a presidential candidate in 2008 against Hillary Clinton, 55. I can hardly wait.

I found this biography a pleasure to read because it gave details about Miss Rice's personal life no, there are no big secrets and a romantic past is hinted at and no more and, especially about her family history going back to a slave ancestry. There are, however, several errors that should be corrected in subsequent editions:

• The first meeting between Soviet President Gorbachev and President Bush's father didn't take place at the Malta Summit in 1989. They had met several times earlier, and in one case in 1988, one-on-one.

• Omitted from the list of past national security advisers is Gen. Andrew Goodpaster.

• Miss Rice's favorite pianist couldn't be Anton Rubenstein, who died sometime in the 1890s. It must be Artur Rubenstein.

• The Council on Foreign Relations publishes Foreign Affairs not Foreign Policy.

• The author paints a cheerful picture of the popular Russian attitude toward blacks, whether African or American. Africans who fled Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University, whom I interviewed, told terrible racist stories about how they were treated by their Russian classmates.

• Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick's name is misspelled.


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