With Rumsfeld Gone, Critics Of War Look To Rice

With Rumsfeld Gone, Critics Of War Look To Rice
February 4th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: With Rumsfeld Gone, Critics Of War Look To Rice

With Rumsfeld Gone, Critics Of War Look To Rice
New York Times
February 4, 2007
Pg. 12
Washington Memo

By Helene Cooper
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 — For six years, first as national security adviser and then as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice worked under the cover of a very effective shield: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was the administration’s lightning rod for criticism over its handling of Iraq.
But in recent weeks, with Mr. Rumsfeld gone, Ms. Rice has faced increased, and somewhat unfamiliar, criticism. At a Senate hearing on Jan. 11, she confronted a wall of opposition from Republicans as well as Democrats. During hearings this week on Iraq, several of her predecessors were pointed in their disapproval of her job performance.
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III took issue with Ms. Rice’s refusal to engage Syria diplomatically. Back in his day, he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “We practiced diplomacy full time, and it paid off.”
This week, Senators Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, released three letters demanding that Ms. Rice make public the administration’s requirements for actions to be taken by the Iraqi government to earn continued American support. Along with the letters, and Ms. Rice’s reply — which indicated that the Iraqis had already missed most of the benchmarks — the senators also released an irate statement.
“Secretary Rice finally provided a response” to the senators’ repeated requests, the statement said. “What Secretary Rice’s letter makes abundantly clear is that the administration does not intend to attach meaningful consequences for the Iraqis continuing to fail to meet their commitments.”
And on Jan. 20, The Economist published an editorial titled “The Falling Star of Condoleezza Rice.”
“Condoleezza Rice,” it said, “is not the woman she once was.”
Ms. Rice rarely becomes flustered — she bristles whenever reporters ask her how she “feels” about anything — and her aides maintain that she has taken the criticism in stride. But the Jan. 11 hearing clearly took its toll. “Let’s just say it was a bad day and leave it at that,” one senior State Department official said. The next day, Ms. Rice hit back at Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, who said Ms. Rice did not pay a personal price for the war because she had no immediate family members serving in Iraq.
“I thought it was O.K. to be single,” Ms. Rice said. “I thought it was O.K. to not have children, and I thought you could still make good decisions on behalf of the country if you were single and didn’t have children.”
Despite her role at the heart of the Iraq war from its beginnings, Ms. Rice had, thus far, avoided the public pillorying that Mr. Rumsfeld received. She has repeatedly had the highest approval ratings of anyone in the administration, and she continues to earn approval ratings that are substantially higher than her boss’s.
In particular, as secretary of state, Ms. Rice has been treated like a celebrity, appearing on Vanity Fair’s best-dressed list and in an article in the November issue of Vogue. There are Web sites devoted to persuading her to run for president — www.draftcondi.us says her nomination “would be the greatest political move of the century” — and a blog obsessed with her personal style:</> includes a Rice “hairdo alert system,” and on Jan. 29 it posted a photograph of an Italian designer’s gown that features Ms. Rice’s face.
But as the Bush administration’s overall foreign policy has come under fire, and other senior officials have left the administration, Ms. Rice is starting to take the heat previously reserved for Mr. Rumsfeld.
“Before, nobody assigned her the kind of ownership or authorship over the administration’s policy — she did get something of a pass,” said Michael A. McFaul, a political science professor at Stanford who knows Ms. Rice. “Now, there aren’t that many officials still around, and she’s much more exposed.”
Kenneth M. Pollack, a research director at the Brookings Institution, said: “It is no longer the case that Rumsfeld is the administration bad guy. People will look much harder at Condi’s role now, and Iraq is really going to rest on her shoulders.”
In the past, most of the criticism has come from the left. But now the disapproval has spread, and Republicans are joining in. The starkest example came on Jan. 11, when Ms. Rice faced a room full of skeptics as she defended, before a Senate panel, President Bush’s new Iraq strategy. “You’re going to have to do a much better job” explaining the rationale for the war, Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, told her, adding that the administration could no longer count on his support.
The censure continued this week during three days of rare Senate testimony from a cadre of Ms. Rice’s predecessors. While the former secretaries of state and national security advisers — Mr. Baker, Henry A. Kissinger, Madeleine K. Albright, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski — were diplomatic in their critiques of the administration’s foreign policy, all left the impression that as America’s top diplomat, Ms. Rice was not engaging in real diplomacy.
“That’s what we hire a secretary of state for, not to sit there and proclaim categorical statements, but to engage in the process,” said Mr. Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser.
Mr. Kissinger and Ms. Albright both sounded a similar note. Mr. Kissinger, while giving lukewarm support to the administration, said America should always be ready to negotiate with Iran and Syria, while Ms. Albright added that “one gains by communicating with countries with which one disagrees.”
Ms. Rice’s mentor, Mr. Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President Gerald R. Ford and the first President Bush, called the troop increase a “tactic, not a strategy.”
Ms. Rice remains extraordinarily close to the president — she spends time at Camp David and in Texas with Mr. Bush and his wife — and friends said that relationship was a source of comfort to her.
The criticism of Ms. Rice has yet to reach the decibel level of that directed against Mr. Rumsfeld, and it may never get to that point, in part because she is not highhanded in her behavior toward colleagues and underlings, her close friends and aides said. Mr. Rumsfeld was heavily criticized by Democrats, and eventually, Republicans, but he also received a lot of disapproval from people who worked with him and for him at the Pentagon and in the administration.
Mr. Rice has yet to inspire that level of exasperation from colleagues, either from inside the State Department or the National Security Council. “Whatever harping you may find, you won’t find the same kind of internal dissent” which Mr. Rumsfeld provoked, said Philip D. Zelikow, the State Department’s former counselor and a close friend of Ms. Rice. “She’ll occasionally have a tart thing to say, but she’s not one of those people who wrings their hands and worries incessantly about their press.”
But she sometimes does take criticism personally. Last fall, she telephoned President Bush’s father, who employed her on his National Security Council in the early 1990s, after Bob Woodward’s book “State of Denial” reported that the elder Mr. Bush had said that she had been a “disappointment” and “not up to the job.”
The former president told Larry King on CNN that Ms. Rice “called me and said, ‘There’s something in this book.’ ” He denied that he called her a disappointment. “I guess there were some hurt feelings,” he said.

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