Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview

22
CONDOLEEZZA RICE

Elaine Sciolino

This selection presents a profile of Dr. Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser in the
second Bush Administration. Elaine Sciolino takes a look at Dr. Rice's preparation for the
job of NSC adviser, suggesting that she and President George W. Bush share a similar out-
look on the world: "a realist, Republican balance-of-power approach that focuses more
on the big powers and less on the interests of 'the international community.'"

In 1991, only two years into the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice suddenly left her powerful job as the top Russia expert on the National Security Council and went back to California—to get a life.

"I like balance in my life," Ms. Rice said in an interview in Palo Alto, Calif., during the presidential campaign earlier this year. "I wanted a life. These jobs are all-consuming. And I have strong reservations about going back to that all-consuming life and leaving what is a blessedly normal life here. I like going to the cleaners and the coffee shop on Saturday morning." But in accepting the offer to become national security adviser in a George W. Bush administration, the 46year-old former political science professor and provost at Stanford University has decided to return to that allconsuming life.

Perhaps it is not at all surprising. As a child growing up in a segregated bourgeois neighborhood in Birmingham, Ala., Condi, as she is called, was pushed relentlessly to achieve. She started piano lessons at the age of 3, was tutored in French and Spanish as a young girl and entered eighth grade at the age of 11.

As a high school student in Denver, she became both a competitive ice skater (getting up at 4:30 A.M. for lessons) and an accomplished pianist (sometimes staying up until 3 a.m. to practice). She did her senior year of high school and her freshman year in college at the same time. Her parents piled up so many books by her bedside table that she stopped reading for pleasure, and still does not.

"I grew up in a family in which my parents put me into every book club," she recalled. "So I never developed the fine art of recreational reading."

As Mr. Bush's top national security adviser during the campaign, Ms. Rice played a variety of roles. She was his private foreign policy tutor, the person, Mr. Bush once said, who "can explain to me foreign policy matters in a way I can understand." She was his intellectual quarterback, "both a good manager and an honest broker of ideas," he said in an interview. And she was his trusted friend, "a close confidante and a good soul," he added.

At 46, she will not be the youngest national security adviser in American history. McGeorge Bundy was only 41 when he became national security adviser to President John F. Kennedy; Henry A. Kissinger in the Nixon administration and Richard V. Allen in the Reagan administration were only 45. Nor is she the first black national security adviser. Retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Mr. Bush's choice for secretary of state, served as national security adviser in the final year of the Reagan administration.

But Ms. Rice will be the first woman to hold the job.

With her girlish laugh and gushes of Southern charm, Ms. Rice can be utterly captivating—without

From Elaine Sciolino, "Compulsion to Achieve—Condoleezza Rice," New York Times (December 18, 2000), A1.

Elaine Sciolino is a reporter for the New York Times.

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