She advised his father as the Cold War melted into the New World Order. Now President-elect George W. Bush relies on her counsel as he faces a more complicated international landscape.
Condoleezza Rice — an accomplished academic, provost of Stanford University, and former member of President George Bush’s foreign-policy team — is once again set to return to Washington, this time, as George W. Bush’s national security adviser.
Rice was Bush’s chief adviser on foreign-policy issues throughout his campaign, and before that, served as one of the 10 members on his handpicked Presidential Exploratory Committee, leading many observers to wonder just where she would end up in a new Bush administration.
During the campaign, Rice was part of a group of foreign-policy advisers to Bush nicknamed “The Vulcans,” a group that included Bush’s running mate, Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and Paul Wolfowitz, a senior Pentagon official in the elder Bush’s administration.
In the early stages of Bush’s candidacy, Rice told ABCNEWS that her job was to help the Texas governor with “the very basic work he has wanted to do on the nature of the politics in various countries, the nature of alliances, really laying a lot of the groundwork” for the tougher foreign policy positions he would be asked to take as a candidate.
She also served as a de facto part of his campaign response team, defending Bush after Vice President Al Gore attacked the Texas governor’s for his supposed lack of foreign-policy expertise during an April speech.
“Where was he [Gore] when it was time to stand up and be counted in Seattle?” asked Rice, referring to the disruption of the World Trade Organization meetings by protesters in December. She also criticized Gore for not endorsing permanent normal trade relations with China more strongly, saying “when it comes to the vote on China, he’s been missing in action.”
However, Rice says Bush is capable of holding his own in the international arena, citing his first major foreign-policy statement, on Kosovo, as an example.
“He said what he thought, I didn’t sit there and dictate it to him,” says Rice.
From Rachmaninoff to Russia
Rice, 46, grew up in segregated Birmingham, Ala., the only child of two educators who instilled in her a strong sense of family and community. As the civil rights movement reached her town, where racism ran rampant, Rice, who is black, says she felt insulated from the upheaval all around her.
“My parents really provided a shield as much as they could against the horrors of Birmingham,” says Rice, who lost a kindergarten classmate in a now-infamous1963 church bombing. “At the same time I can remember my parents taking me to watch the marchers — they wanted us to know the history and to know what was happening.”
After her father took a job in Denver, Rice decided to take college courses while still in high school. An accident of fate led her to become an expert on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
“I was saved from a music major by Russia,” says Rice, who abandoned her music studies after realizing she would end up “teaching 13-year-olds to murder Beethoven.”
And so began a search for a major that ended in the classroom of Professor Josef Korbel, the father of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.