- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser, was ushered to the residence of British Ambassador David Manning on Saturday night for what turned out to be her surprise 50th birthday party.

Mr. Bush was there, as was his father, former President George Bush. Other dignitaries included Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Brent Scowcroft and Samuel R. Berger, Miss Rice’s predecessors at the White House.

The party’s venue was no coincidence. Miss Rice and Mr. Manning became very close when he was her counterpart in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office before coming to Washington 14 months ago.

But, more importantly, Mr. Blair’s Britain is exactly the kind of ally Miss Rice, whom Mr. Bush nominated yesterday as the next secretary of state, values most.

It was in London last year, two months after Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion and emotions against it in Europe still ran high, that she said: “There is little lasting consequence that the United States can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of allies and friends.”

But then she spelled out her definition of a true friend: a country that does not “put a check” on American power but stands firmly with the United States in its effort to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction and other modern ills.

“Why would anyone who shares the values of freedom seek to put a check on those values?” Miss Rice asked, adding that Europe and democracies worldwide should follow Washington’s lead instead of trying to balance it with competing policies.

“Power in the service of freedom is to be welcomed, and powers that share a commitment to freedom can and must make common cause against freedom’s enemies,” she said in the June 2003 speech.

Miss Rice, who is one of Mr. Bush’s confidants, dismissed a vision of “multipolarity” advanced by French President Jacques Chirac and others, calling it “a theory of rivalry, of competing interests,” which “only the enemies of freedom would cheer.”

“We have tried this before,” she said. “It led to the Great War, which cascaded into the Good War, which gave way to the Cold War. Today, this theory of rivalry threatens to divert us from meeting the great tasks before us.”

France, Germany and Russia led the opposition to the Iraq war in the United Nations Security Council, which prevented the United States and Britain from winning a final resolution authorizing the invasion.

As foreign leaders yesterday looked for signs of how the new top U.S. diplomat would deal with them, many recalled a famous phrase that was attributed to Miss Rice last year: “Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia.”

Yesterday, Miss Rice said she planned to pursue Mr. Bush’s “hopeful and ambitious agenda.”

Although they realize that her strong views are not likely to change, foreign officials expressed hope that her close relationship with Mr. Bush, who owes much of his knowledge of foreign affairs to her, will help their voices be better heard in the White House.

Similarly, officials at the State Department looked for the silver lining in the appointment of someone considered more of a hard-liner than Mr. Powell.

Although some feared that the only moderate foreign policy agency in Washington is being taken over by the hawks who engineered the Iraq war, others hoped that their department will have a bigger effect on policy because of Miss Rice’s intimate access to the president.

“She is the ultimate insider,” one senior official said. “That’s worth a lot.”

Miss Rice’s nomination was not met at the State Department with the enthusiasm that had accompanied the arrival of Mr. Powell, and even his predecessor, Madeleine K. Albright, the first woman to hold the most senior Cabinet position.

“It’s not because we don’t like her, but because we don’t know what exactly to expect,” one official said.

Many in the department, as on Capitol Hill, have faulted Miss Rice for not being able to manage the foreign policy interagency process while at the White House and balance the views and priorities of different departments.

But yesterday, she tried to reach out to the career employees at Foggy Bottom, following a tradition of newly named Cabinet members.

“In my 25 years of experience in foreign affairs, both in and out of government, I have come to know the men and women of the Department of State,” she said after Mr. Bush formally nominated her at a White House ceremony.

“I have the utmost admiration and respect for their skill, their professionalism and their dedication,” she added. “And one of my highest priorities as secretary will be to ensure that they have all the tools necessary to carry American diplomacy forward in the 21st century.”

Although Miss Rice is known to be a tough and demanding boss, most people find her a pleasant, smart and no-nonsense woman. She is an engaging speaker and skilled communicator, able to deliver speeches based on quickly scribbled notes.

Other than the famous story of her as a black girl who grew up in segregated Alabama and went to college at 15, little is known about Miss Rice’s private life — except for her passion for music and sports.

In a rare instance of discussing a personal matter in an interview, she said in 2000 that she had once dated a professional football player.

“I’m not married, but I never met anybody I wanted to live with,” she said. “I think I’ve maintained balance in my life. I’m not a workaholic; I’m pretty relaxed about things. I went back to playing the piano seriously four years ago. I exercise a lot and go to sporting events.”

She then recalled some words of encouragement from her parents, both of whom are now deceased, when she was a child.

“I lived in a place where you couldn’t go have a hamburger at a restaurant, but my parents were telling me I could be president,” Miss Rice said.

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