Cover Story

Condi the hawk

"Condi the hawk" Continued...

Issue: "Rice: Starboard at State," Dec. 4, 2004

During her stint at the National Endowment for Democracy, Ms. Rice was a tireless proponent of winning human rights through democratic reforms. "I think she will focus hard on this subject," says Mark Palmer, a former ambassador during the Reagan administration and now vice chairman of Freedom House. Mr. Palmer believes the new secretary of state is one of the few leaders who recognize that "national security and international peace are inextricably related to democracy." Indeed, he says, after Madeleine Albright, "she's only the second one with a clear history on these issues."

Though Democrats and Republicans might gnash their teeth at the comparison, Ms. Rice can, indeed, sometimes sound like former President Bill Clinton's secretary of state. In her speech before the CFR, for instance, she touted "the important work that together the United States and Europe can achieve beyond our borders: To help foster open societies with open economies around the world. To help bring peace and health to Africa. To help set an example of multi-ethnic democracy for those lands where difference is still seen as a license to kill."

Multi-ethnic democracies and a healthy Africa may not seem like typical GOP foreign policy concerns, but then, Ms. Rice is hardly a typical GOP political figure. She was born in racially segregated Birmingham, Ala., in 1954, and Ms. Rice's parents taught her that she wasn't a victim-but that she'd have to work twice as hard as her white counterparts to get ahead. Her father, the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, resisted pressure to send the congregation's children into the streets for civil-rights protests, though he did pick up a shotgun and patrol the streets himself at night after a bombing at a nearby church killed four little girls.

Ms. Rice entered the University of Denver at age 15, graduated cum laude, then earned a master's at Notre Dame before going back to Denver for a Ph.D. By age 27 she was teaching at Stanford. A decade later she was the youngest-ever provost there.

If Ms. Rice ends up surprising critics who see her as a one-dimensional warmonger, John Danforth, her colleague at the United Nations, may end up disappointing moderates in search of a new Colin Powell. Named as U.S. ambassador to the UN last July, Mr. Danforth was a prominent contender, just months later, to succeed either Mr. Powell or Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft.

In the end, Mr. Bush passed him over for both roles, promoting instead two White House advisers with strong personal ties to the president. As something of an outsider, the former Missouri senator and ordained Episcopal priest is viewed by some Democrats as the last voice of moderation in the Bush foreign policy councils.

"Jack Danforth has the stature to go to the president and say, 'Mr. President, I disagree,'" bragged Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during confirmation hearings this summer.

But Mr. Danforth seems to eschew the image of political maverick so carefully cultivated by Mr. Powell. "Throughout our efforts to bring peace to Sudan, my role was to be your spokesman," he told the president during his swearing-in ceremony last July. "The same will be the case in my new position. The job of permanent representative [to the UN] is to express to the world the views of the president, and that is what I intend to do."

Mr. Danforth's record suggests the loyalty isn't rhetorical flourish. In 1991, despite his own moderate politics, Mr. Danforth led the fight to confirm Clarence Thomas, a staunch conservative, for a seat on the Supreme Court. Mr. Danforth knew better than most just how conservative the nominee was: 20 years earlier, as attorney general of Missouri, he had hired Mr. Thomas for one of his first jobs.

Winning confirmation for an unpopular Supreme Court nominee may prove easier than winning the world over to America's position on issues such as abortion, AIDS, and cloning. But supporters note that Mr. Danforth has already brought warring Christians and Muslims to the bargaining table in Sudan, and a peace deal appears tantalizingly close. And last week he nearly secured a UN vote to establish a worldwide ban on human cloning. Such progress suggests that the president's new foreign policy team may have some surprises in store for the rest of the world-and the doodlers may want to keep an eraser handy.

-with reporting by Priya Abraham

Rice's résumé

  • Education
  • Bachelor of Arts, political science, University of Denver, 1974
  • Master of Arts, University of Notre Dame, 1975
  • Ph.D., Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver, 1981

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