The Velvet Hammer


The Washington Post has a article out today that compares Condi Rice and her predecessor Colin Powell. The comparison shows that Condi has outperformed Powell and has her critic’s begrudgingly admitting that she has been more then a “yes” women for Bush:

Three weeks after taking office, Condoleezza Rice hosted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and their Japanese counterparts at the State Department. When Rumsfeld began to speak, Rice gently cut him off. The message was clear: I’ll take the lead, Don. Both Japanese and U.S. officials noted the decisive nudge.

Now six months on the job, Rice has clearly wrested control of U.S. foreign policy. The once heavy-handed Defense Department still weighs in, but Rice wins most battles — in strong contrast to her predecessor, Colin L. Powell. White House staff is consulted, but Rice designed the distinctive framework for the administration’s second-term foreign policy.

Rice has worked hard — at a pace that sometimes seems like a campaign — to overcome her image during Bush’s first term as a weak national security adviser who struggled to mediate among the strong-willed personalities vying to shape foreign policy. As secretary of state, she has surprised allies with her blunt use of diplomatic tools to make a point.

Rice cancelled a visit to Egypt and temporarily suspended $200 million in aid to signal displeasure with the arrest of a pro-reform politician. She also scrubbed a visit to Canada when it nixed participation in U.S. missile defense, a trip still not rescheduled. During a stop in Saudi Arabia, she publicly told the desert kingdom to enfranchise women. And after a trip through the rocky hills of the West Bank, where she noted new Jewish settlement construction, she cautioned Israel that more building might violate an agreement it made with Bush a year earlier.

On her first trip abroad, Rice warned the European Union not to lift an arms embargo on China, telling diplomats they would rue the day if U.S. troops ever faced European-armed Chinese soldiers across the Taiwan straits. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who then held the rotating European Union presidency, was so startled by her tough talk that he spilled his coffee in the lap of European foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

“The Europeans sent delegation after delegation saying, ‘Please be more flexible.’ She did not yield,” Burns said. “She told them, ‘You’ve united the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress. That’s not an easy thing to do.’ ” The Europeans ultimately shelved their plan.

Colleagues have dubbed Rice the “velvet hammer.” Philip Zelikow, State Department counselor and a close adviser, said that “one of her gifts is that she knows how to say very direct things to foreign governments in a way that is not confrontational. She is very assertive, very firm, but doesn’t leave them feeling sullen and resentful.”

When Rice visited Paris in February to give a speech on U.S.-European relations, French Ambassador Jean David Levitte said, she “really changed the atmosphere — of the media, of public opinion — about the Bush administration. It was really a turning point.”

Because of her impact generally after first six months, he concluded, Rice is “probably the most powerful secretary of state in decades.”

More than anything, Rice has placed the president’s promotion of democracy in the Arab world at the top of the agenda. It is a theme she hits repeatedly, both overseas and within the bowels of the department.

At a town-hall meeting with State Department staff last month, Rice compared the early 21st century with the 1940s, “another time when, after war, the United States was confronted with an international environment that was changing rapidly. . . . I think of our goal and our strategy and our purpose as trying to use American diplomacy to build a firm foundation now at the end, again, of a great national trauma.”

In a leap of faith 60 years ago, Rice told her staff, the United States argued that Japan could become a democracy, even though its society was not Western and its governments were historically autocratic. Today, after two wars in the Islamic world, Rice believes the Middle East can undergo similar change.

It’s a great article and one that should be read from front to back. It appears that even the writers take a few swipes at Powell which the Captain noticed:

The media decided that Powell, who they had earlier derided for not airing his personal and policy differences with Bush publicly, was the Oracle of all wisdom on foreign policy and repeatedly featured him in article after article during Rice’s confirmation period and for a short time thereafter.

Now, however, the Post appears to have changed its mind, although one would have to have some familiarity with their previous coverage of Powell to recognize it. First, the article states several examples of Rice acting what many suppose Bush’s policies demand. She initiated one-on-one contact with North Korea in order to get the multilateral talks back on line. She overrules Donald Rumsfeld on foreign-policy efforts. Rice reinvented the policy on Iran, working with Europe to set a slate of incentives that the US would back in exchange for a verifiable cessation of their nuclear program. She even found a formulation that the Bush administration would not veto at the UN which allowed the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in the Sudan.

Rice did all of this in six months. Powell, for all his gravitas and supposed opposition to Bush, could not do this in four years, a fact only obliquely referenced by Wright and Kessler on the fact that Powell couldn’t get the Bush administration to even drop the “axis of evil” connotation for Iran.

And once again we come to the point where the MSM and most of his critic’s in congress underestimated Bush. He has picked a Secretary of State that may, just may, go down as one of the best.

Even Forbes is getting into the act:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has beaten 99 female heads of state, chief executives and celebrities to top Forbes magazine?s list of the world?s most powerful women for the second year in a row.

In fact, the magazine saw Rice as wielding such raw power that she won last year?s inaugural rankings, even before President Bush gave her the secretary of state job. She won as Bush?s National Security Adviser.

?With her steely nerve and delicate manners, Rice lately has reinvigorated her position with diplomatic activism,? said Forbes on its Web site about its no. 1 in terms of feminine clout.

?Rice has played a key, behind-the-scenes role in all of President George W. Bush?s major decisions,? Forbes said.

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