Condoleezza Rice Between the President and Her Mentors

Ynet Hebrew Edition, November 18, 2004

President Bush did not shed any tear upon receiving Secretary Powell's letter of resignation.  The President has not concealed his satisfaction when his National Security Advisor, Rice, agreed to replace Powell.


Powell has been popular throughout the globe, but not at the White House.  He has been considered by President Bush and (especially by) Vice President Cheney as an ideological and political rival, who was courted by President Clinton for the role of Secretary of Defense.


Powell has been one of the least effective US secretaries of state, and was operating under the shadow of the most dominant Vice President in US history (Cheney).  He clashed continuously with an assertive Secretary of Defense (Rumsfeld), who has been very close to the President and to the Vice President.  The President has usually ignored Powell's advise, and followed that of Cheney and Rumsfeld, as attested by US policy toward Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Europe, the UN, the PLO (ignoring Arafat) and Israel (refraining from effective pressure).


Powell is retiring when the threats by Iran and North Korean escalate, when the prospect of democratization and stability in Iraq, and throughout the Arab world, is rapidly deteriorating, and when the UN and Europe (other than Britain) are systematically undermining US policy, notwithstanding Powell's efforts.


While half of President Bush's Cabinet has retired due to physical exhaustion, Secretary Powell has been a casualty of an ideological war of attrition.


No personal or ideological chemistry has existed between Bush and Powell, while Rice has become a "member of the family", joining the First Couple during their weekends at Crawford and Camp David.  Rice has earned the trust of George W. and Laura Bush, as well as that of Bush #41.  Therefore, the President has decided to entrust her with the role of overhauling the Department of State, which has been accused (along with the CIA) by the White House of following a rivaling world view, and initiating damaging leaks to the media during the 2004 election campaign.


The appointment of Rice demonstrated the President's resolve to leverage his November victory, sustain his hawkish policy toward Islamic terrorism, Iran and North Korea.  Contrary to Powell, Rice enjoys a wide open presidential ear, is an international relations specialist and an assertive manager, who has the potential of overcoming the problematic Foggy Bottom bureaucracy.


However, while identifying with the President on a personal level, Rice has embraced a world view, which is very close to the one professed by the Department of State.  Her mentor was Brent Scowcroft, who served as the National Security Advisor to Bush #41, who recommended her to President Bush, who constitutes a focal point of opposition to the Bush/Cheney global policy, and who has been one of Israel's harshest critics in the US (Steve Hadley, who is replacing Rice, was a partner in Scowcroft's consultancy).  Rice was Scowcroft's assistant on Soviet affairs, and her senior "coach" on the Middle East at large and on  the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular was Richard Haas, who was Scowcroft's assistant on the Middle East and a veteran critic of Israel, the settlements and a grand promoter of a PLO State and Israel's withdrawal to the 1949 Lines. Rice has made public her admiration of Dennis Ross, who has been determined to resurrect the Oslo Process and to push Israel back to the 1949 Lines.


As a National Security Advisor, Rice has frequently supported Powell's positions, maneuvering among the Bush, Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld, realizing that the President has usually supported Cheney's position.  As a Secretary of State, Rice will joggle daily her ideological affinity toward the bureaucracy of the Department of State and her loyalty to the President.  She will be bolstered by her unique intelligence and refined political senses, which have catapulted her to the highest political position ever held by an Afro-American.