Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Condi And George : The Price For Rice's Loyalty To The Bush Dynasty

A new book, Twice As Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path To Power, By Marcus Mabry, examines, amongst other issues, the severe price Condi Rice has paid for her loyalty to President George W. Bush.

But it's unlikely that her involvement with the Bush administration, and her disastrous role in the selling, and continuation, of the Iraq War, the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks and her inability to force Israel to take the final steps towards peace with the Palestinians, have destroyed her career.

Post-White House, Rice will have the pick of positions with any number of Washington DC think tanks and policy boards. She would also be welcomed back to the oil corporations, with open arms, that she once once worked for, and has helped during her time in the Bush administration. No doubt she would be richly rewarded.

The book also takes an indepth look at the Bush-Rice relationship, and the presumably platonic love affair they've shared through some of the most dramatic and tumultuous events of the past three decades - 9/11 and the Iraq War being the two most obvious examples.

There's an extract from the book up at MSNBC. Here's a few excerpts :

During the 2000 campaign, (Rice) had planned to advise Bush informally; instead, Rice ended up leading his foreign policy team. "In a political sense, I think he kind of courted her," said Carson. "He really went after her. He's very charming."

And Rice was drawn to Bush. "First of all, I thought he was wonderful to be around," she recalled, sitting on the couch in her State Department office. "He was warm and funny and easy to be around. I thought he had just an incredibly inquisitive mind ... You could barely finish an explanation before he was digging into it."

Bush was also a bad boy. And Rice, according to friends and family, had a thing for bad boys. That was why, as a 20-year-old grad student, she preferred her second Fighting Irish football player boyfriend to her first, said Jane Robinett, Rice's best Notre Dame friend: John "Dubie" Dubenetzky, cocky and handsome with wavy blond hair, was less deferential than Wayne Bullock, the sweet fullback who had moved Condi's boxes into Lewis Hall.

Rice's friends insisted the attraction to Bush was platonic, but Brenda Hamberry-Green, her Palo Alto hairdresser, who had spent years commiserating with Rice over how hard it was for successful black women to find a good man, noticed a change when Rice started working for Bush. "He fills that need," Hamberry-Green decided. "Bush is her feed."

But few couples better illustrated the old adage in the black community that a black woman had to be "twice as good to get half as far" than Rice and Bush. Condoleezza was the product of two lines of African American strivers who saw themselves as "aristocratic" but were not. She attended segregated schools until the tenth grade. From the age of three she had been a study in discipline.

Bush—the grandson of a U.S. senator, scion of a Connecticut Yankee family and a product of Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business School—was a gadabout until his fortieth birthday, when he decided it was time to stop drinking. Bush hadn't known who he was until he was 45, according to Rice's mentor, Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Bush Sr.

By the time Rice met Bush, he had become a Christian teetotaler and a devoted family man. The two shared a strong religious faith, a belief in American power, similar senses of humor, and a conviction that sports was a metaphor for life. He admired her brains. She valued his instincts. Politically, she liked his "compassionate conservatism"—the philosophy that those who wanted to lift themselves from poverty and ignorance should be given the opportunity. That had been a leitmotif for generations of minister-teachers in the Rice family. Most important, they saw themselves as outsiders: Rice as a function of her race and gender, Bush because he had never fit in as a Texas boy with the Northeastern elitists he came to see as snobs.

"There was this connective stuff—that was really fully under way by the summer of 1999," said Rice's friend Coit "Chip" Blacker. "There's a funny kind of transfer of energy and ideas that's almost—not random, but unstructured. It's as though they're Siamese twins joined at the frontal lobe."

The mind meld grew stronger in Washington, especially after 9/11. But as much as it reassured Bush to have the woman he called his "sister" by his side, their closeness also became one of the administration's liabilities in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

To Scowcroft, for whom Rice had worked in the Bush Sr. White House directing Soviet policy at the end of the cold war, the major task of the national security adviser was to be the skeptic-in-chief: "My approach to almost every question is to view it with informed skepticism ... If it doesn't work, what happens?" (Scowcroft said that in 1987.) But Rice tended to enable the president's missteps rather than check them. The basis of the relationship had been formed in the campaign: she molded his instincts, she didn't challenge them. So as the administration marched toward war in Iraq, she didn't push back. She didn't question troop levels or the Defense Department's rosy post-Saddam scenarios. She didn't demand the administration devise a single, unified plan for after Saddam's statue fell.

Some administration officials say Rice as national security adviser concentrated too heavily on advising the president, rather than managing the national security "process." They point to her remark at a Washington dinner party in 2004, when she said, "As I was telling my husb—" before abruptly correcting herself, "As I was telling President Bush ... " (Rice told me she doesn't think she ever made the comment; "I swear I don't remember any such slip ... I don't think it happened." And neither do a number of other guests at the dinner, though some swear they heard her say "husband.") Even Rice's friends, most of whom happen to be Democrats, say her affection for Bush blinded her to his failings. "She thought he could do no wrong," said one.

...the reason Rice stayed on for the second term, she told me, visibly humbled, perhaps schooled by the mistakes of the previous six years, was "I thought there was more we could do. Over the first three years we'd basically broken down a lot of the old system. And," she sighed, "and I've been very cognizant of the need to put it back together in a different configuration, one that lays a foundation. And so I thought, 'Well, I'll try to do that.' "

Of course, her friends and her stepmother Clara Rice offered a simpler explanation for why she stayed: "she just can't say no to that man."