The Moscow News wasn’t sure what to make Condoleezza Rice when the 34-year-old Stanford University professor came to town in 1988 to inaugurate1 a series of seminars2 at the U.S. ambassador’s3 residence. She spoke of arms control policy and of a coming summit4 with the United States, but the writer could not quite get past the notion5 of a young black woman as an expert on Soviet affairs.
“ The men… couldn’t help wondering: ‘ She should be busy cooking and driving her admirers mad. But instead she aptly6 juggles7 numbers of missiles and tanks, names of marshals8 and dates of summits,’ ” the paper wrote.
It would be neither the first nor the last time that Rice, President-elect George W. Bush’s choice to head the National Security Council, would exceed expectations.“ I’ve seen it happen time and time again,” said Michael McFaul, a Democrat who advised Al Gore’s campaign but is close to Rice. “ Foreign policy is dominated by bald9, graying white men and they’re not used to someone like Condi Rice.”
Indeed, Rice, 46, bears little outward10 resemblance11 to Henry Kissinger, the quintessential national security adviser, but friends and colleagues say she is among of the smartest, most articulate12 and charming people they know.A steely13 manager, she also is a concert pianist and maniacal14 sports fan, half-joking that the only job she would rather have is commissioner of the National Football League.
Philosophically, she is quite conservative. Rice argues against humanitarian15 missions and international treaties and for a hard line on Russia and putting U.S. strategic interests at the center of all decisions.“ American foreign policy in a Repulican administration should refocus the United States on the national interest,” Rice wrote this year in Foreign Affairs magazine. “ There is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity,but that is,in a sense,a second-order effect.”
An expert on the Soviet Union, Rice was plucked16 from academia in 1989 by Brent Scowcroft to serve on the National Security Council of former President George Bush, where she helped shape U.S. policy during the tumultuous17 time of the Soviet Union’s collapse18.
She was responsible for a part of the world that was exploding, giving her unusual access19 to the President. They would develop a friendship that, nearly a decade later, would lead Rice to his son.
She first met George W. Bush in 1995 when she happened to be in Texas visiting his father. They talked mostly about their shared passion? ? sports. Bush, in his first year as Texas governor, had neither foreign policy nor the presidency on his mind.But by August 1998, when they were together again at the Bush family house in Kennebunkport, Maine, that had changed.
“ In between tennis games and going out on the boat and sitting out on the back porch we would have conversations about what foreign policy challenges would face the next president,” Rice said last week in an interview.As Rice ran on the treadmill20 and Bush worked out on a glider21, the college professor began a two-year tutorial22 of her most important student yet. Bush has said that he likes Rice because she explains issues in a way he can understand.
When George Bush was elected president in 1988, Scowcroft became national security adviser and recruited23 Rice, who had impressed him with her knowledge of arms control.She was never a top tier policy aide in the White House, but her timing was perfect.
The Berlin Wall collapsed, the Soviet Union was crumbling, and she was part of team that developed U.S.policy.Burned out24 after two years in Washington,she returned to Stanford.Within a year, she was elevated25 to provost26 the No.2 job at Stanford although she never been a department head or dean.
Now, as Rice becomes the first woman to head the National Security Council, there’s some concern that she was too far removed from international affairs as she was focused on university affairs. “ One critique27 you’ll hear is that the Russia she knows is the Soviet Union of 10 or 12 years ago,” said Andrew Kuchins, who worked with Rice at Stanford and is now at the Carnegie Endowment28 for International Peace. And even if she is an expert on Russia and Eastern Europe, what about the Middle East, China and Latin America? Rice responds that every scholar has to specialize in something.
Another challenge: Making her voice heard above Colin Powell, nominated to be secretary of state, and Vice President-elect Chency, strong personalities who might wind up29 battling one another.Kuchins is betting she will exceed expectations again. “ She’s a strong personality and she should never be underestimated,” he said. “ Whether she’s sitting in a room with Dick Cheney or Colin Powell, Condi will her own.”