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.