Stephen Hadley owes Condoleezza Rice big time. Were it not for his predecessor, Hadley would be the odds on favorite to the title of "Worst National Security Adviser Ever." He has been, after all, so hapless in that position that the White House had to go out and hire an active duty three-star general to do most of his job for him. In any other administration, Hadley would have resigned to spend more time with his family and Lieutenant General Douglas Lute would have been given the title as well as the job.
But Hadley can breath easy on the legacy score; Condi made such a muck of things as the NSA and afterwards that they don't even want her back at Stanford University, where she used to be provost and assistant professor of political science. A letter to the editor of The Stanford Daily written by emeritus professor of mathematics Don Ornstein read, “Condoleezza Rice serves an administration that has trashed the basic values of academia: reason, science, expertise, and honesty. Stanford should not welcome her back.” One online comment at the papers' website said, “Please go away, Rice. We don’t want someone who is responsible for the slaughter of an entire nation teaching at our school.”
No one will ever slap wet towels like that across Stephen Hadley's head. He hasn't done anything; nobody will remember who he is. Condi, on the other hand…
In a recent New York Times article, Helene Cooper reports that Rice has initiated a full court press to rescue her reputation before the ink dries on the book of her history. Condi has her work cut out for her, and she needs to do it fast.
The mounting body of Bush administration tell-all books calls Rice to account for her inability as Security Adviser to manage the turf battle over Iraq policy between Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. In Bob Woodward's State of Denial, Rice's administration colleague David Kay, who was charged with finding weapons of mass destruction after the Iraq invasion, describes Rice as "probably the worst National Security Adviser since the office was created." Rice, as you'll recall, was one of the Bush administration's key boo-noise makers during the pre-invasion disinformation campaign, admonishing that "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy Secretary of State, was consistently frustrated with Rice during her tenure as NSA. Over time, Armitage told Cooper, he became aware of the fact that "the president got the national security adviser he wanted." It might be more accurate to say that Rice was the National Security Adviser Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld wanted.
The last thing the administration's chief neocons wanted around the White House was an NSA who could help formulate foreign policy. They could do that just fine without interference from anyone else, thank you very much. What they did need, though, was a private tutor who could bring up to Bush a sixth grade level of competence in history and geography, and who better to do that than a Stanford professor of political science? To make things even better, she made a good workout partner for Lil' Bush, which got the kid out from underfoot while Uncles Dick and Don did all that hard grown up work of squandering the power, influence and good will America had accumulated for over two centuries.
For being a good girl who went along to get along, Condi was rewerded with the Secretary of State cabinet position when it became abundantly clear that Colin Powell didn't want to play ball any more. Cooper tells us that in recent months, as the nation's chief diplomat, Rice has been zeroing in on Arab-Israeli peace as a possible source of redemption. She'll need a Billy Graham-class miracle to pull that one off. Is there any possibility that the Arab world will forget any time soon how she ran interference for Israel during the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict in southern Lebanon? She stiffed armed talk of a cease-fire when Israel thought it had military business left to take care of, but called for an immediate halt to hostilities once it became clear that the mighty Israeli Defense Force was getting its helmet handed to it. It's little wonder that in January 2007 the Lebanese people hung a huge poster from an overpass in central Beirut depicting Rice with vampire fangs dripping the blood of Lebanese children.
Rice supporters argue that through her management of the Iran situation, she has managed to stay the hand of Dick Cheney, who would like nothing better than to strike Iran militarily. Those supporters fail to note that Rice went along with the demand that Iran cease its uranium enrichment program as a pre-condition to direct diplomatic talks regarding its, uh, uranium enrichment program--the enrichment program that Iran claims is part of its pursuit of a nuclear energy industrial that the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty classifies as an "inalienable right." Condi's efforts at diplomacy with Iran have, in fact, helped to insure that real diplomacy with Iran will never take place, at least not while Bush and Cheney are still in office.
Some give Condi credit for the negotiations that led North Korea to shut down its main nuclear reactor in July, but her main contribution to that process was to stay out of the way and let her assistant for East Asian and Pacific affairs Christopher R. Hill take care of things. And the agreement Hill is working out hardly seems like a gem of foreign policy wisdom. The deal, theoretically, has North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program in return for being taken off the U.S. list of countries that support terrorism. Not a bad approach on the surface, but get this: Despite the fact that North Korea has reneged on promise after promise regarding its nuclear program, Hill is hinting that the U.S. will remove it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism before it completely gives up its nuclear weapons program. There's a wonderful signal to be sending to all those evil-doing Islamofascist terror sponsors: If you want America to play ball with you, get yourself some nukes, then promise to get rid of them, and then don't. (Heh!)
When you get right down to it, the only thing that's gone right on Condi's watch at State was when Cheney's boy John Bolton got booted as Ambassador to the UN, but Condi didn't have anything to do with that. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had to take care of it for her.
Despite having been "in on" everything from the beginning, and having shown every bit as much capacity for incompetence and/or mendacity as Rumsfeld, Liddy, Rove, Gonzales and, yes, the reviled Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown, there's every indication that Condi will ride out the Bush term until the bitter end, and she certainly enjoys a more positive public image than do her less fortunate former colleagues. No one seriously talks about running her for president any more, but as Cooper tells us, just last month GQ magazine named her the most powerful person in Washington. Forbes has twice ranked her as the most powerful woman in the world and Time has called her one of the world's most influential people four times.
A run at the presidency may be unrealistic, but if the Democrats float a Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama ticket, the GOP might well try to make up the demographic gap by offering Condi its slate's number two spot. There's also been talk of Rice taking over as commissioner of the National Football League. Condi, however, insists she's only interested in going back to Stanford--whether Stanford likes it or not. That might be the most frightening eventuality of all--Condoleezza Rice, teaching a whole new generation of political scientists how to conduct diplomacy and foreign policy.
Please, God. Hasn't she done enough harm already?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and Military.com. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.