Condi Rice’s Legacy

Thomas Barnett points to an article in the print edition of The Economist that he terms, “A great examination of how disappointing Rice’s tenure has been, noting that her poor turn at SECSTATE is vastly outweighed by her disastrous turn leading the NSC.”

Lexington nails her flaws on the head: she was a lifelong protégé who never grew up. From her childhood right through her final tutoring under Scowcroft, whose model of the perfect NSC chief (broker, not herder) sealed her fate, she–just like fellow SECSTATE disaster Colin Powell–“made her career by impressing powerful establishment figures.”

What does being a lifelong protégé get you? A mindset of serving the boss’ needs, keeping one’s place among the adults, and trying to please all while angering none.

It’s difficult to assess cabinet secretaries in real time, since it is seldom clear from the outside looking in who is responsible for what. One could be right more often than not in private, get overruled by a group decision-making process, and then go out and faithfully execute the boss’ orders. Only in hindsight will we fully understand the contributions of Rice, Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others in the foreign policy decisions of the Bush administration.

That said, Rice has certainly fallen a long way from the rising star status she had in 2000. Her speech at the Republican convention was superb and helped launch a frenzy that had people suggesting dumping Dick Cheney for her in 2004 to groom her as Bush’s successor in 2008. There’s not much talk of President Condi these days.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DaveD says:

    She is there to serve the interests of the President. Has she done this too well? There have also been complaints when “stronger” individuals at State or in intelligence seem to sabotage the President’s desires in deference to their own personal worldviews.

  2. legion says:

    Well, as the quote suggests, what has she accomplished? She’s held several important, high-profile jobs, but what has she done in them except leverage herself into higher positions? Don’t forget, there was even a brief period of time when she was in charge of rebuilding Iraq. that hasn’t worked out so well either…

  3. Derrick says:


    There is a middle ground somewhere in there. I don’t think anybody believes that Rumsfeld is the proper model of a subordinate but at least so far as we can see with Josh Bolton there is always an opportunity to be both loyal to your boss and the willingness to take a stand for measures that are in the best interest of both your boss and your organization. The second part is where Condi has displayed nothing. There is no evidence that she is willing to lead on any issue or prerogative. She seems perfectly comfortable taking bad orders and toiling away at the president’s “discretion”.

  4. Greg Tinti says:

    And Dick Morris sighs…

  5. Tano says:

    Condi Rice taught George Bush everything he knows about foreign policy.

    Nuff said.