Washington Post staff writer Glenn Kessler discussed his profile of Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice and her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The transcript follows.
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Does Dr.Condoleeza Rice see herself as a true team player? Many politicians use the words "If elected or if confirmed, I will make the following happen." "Not so fast there, my friend!" We do have an Executive and Judicial branch in our goverment.
My personnel impression of Dr. Rice is that she is not only a strong team player, but a very skilled tactician and strategist. Dr. Rice knows how to get the best out of her team and she know their strenghts and weakness. I am also very sure that each member of her team(s) are keenly aware of Dr. Rices's expectations. I am reasonbly sure that her love of football and baseball add to her political diagonostic skills. Most of Dr. Rice's critics or "unskiled oponents" are "most likely" thrown off by her body weight and gender. I watched her testify with great interest during the 9/11 inquiry. Dr. Rice was an example of a well educated and elogent speaker. I send my grandaughter (age 10,) all newspaper articles and whatever else I can find on the Iternet that speaks to Dr. Rice. I have told Alexandria to keep a notebook or journel on Dr.Rice, it will be of value at some later date when she is asked to write a paper or essay of someone (a women) who has shaped our destiny as a nation. I guess I better end this. I look forward to watching your show with great interest. (Retired U.S. Navy, Submarines, and WWII history buff.)
Glenn Kessler: yes, she see herself as a team player. But she now will be moving into a new role--less of a manager of big egos and actually someone who has to push her own position and that of her department. In some cases, that means being less of a team player if it means winning the argument.
New York, N.Y.:
Dr. Rice's dream job is N.F.L. Commissioner. Yet pundits, like Dick Morris, insist she's the best hope for a 2008 Republican Presidential victory. Would such a bold political move -- tossing her hat into the ring -- fit with her profile? Thanks.
Glenn Kessler: apparently she has had some interest in being governor of california. But it's a stretch to see her running for president as her first elective office.
How do you think Mrs. Rice stood up to questionsing today?
Glenn Kessler: She did fine. Most of the questions were pretty gentle, except from Sen. Kerry and Sen. Boxer. But she gave back to Boxer as hard as she got.
In some of her answers she wasn't terribly specific, and I could sense some frustration from the senators about that. But you generally don't try to make news at your confirmation hearing, so i can understand her strategy!
Presidents, prime ministers often tend to nominate "weak" secretaries of state in their second terms. This is because they wish to have a personal impact in their foreign policy.
This is more so in USA where presidents become lame ducks in their second (final)term.
Hence, people should not expect much from Condi.
Glenn Kessler: Interesting comment. thanks.
College Park, Md.:
I understand her expertise involves the Soviet Union and the communist bloc countries. How will she comprehend the theocracies of the Middle East in order to come to some decisions.
Glenn Kessler: You are right that her academic expertise is the old Soviet bloc. But she has been national security adviser for four years. The State Dept also has a large staff of experts on the Middle East; it will be interesting to see how much she rely on them for guidance. (Some of State's analyses in the past four years differed from the White House point of view.)
Do you think that Dr. Rice will demonstrate a greater
independance from President Bush or will she follow the line
as she has in her first term role?
Glenn Kessler: As the classic State Dept cable ends: "Time will tell."
It's impossible to predict. She may find she has to be more independent in order to effectively butt heads with Cheney or Rumsfeld. She certainly will hear more different points of view from inside the State Department.
"But she gave back to Boxer as hard as she got."
Can you elaborate on this? I was not able to watch the fireworks.
Glenn Kessler: Boxer accused her of lying about Iraq and she calmly but forcefully said don't impugn my integrity.
Has Condi Rice been practicing for her appearance this morning or is she normally this knowledgeable about such disparate topics?
Glenn Kessler: For more than a month she has been arriving at the State Department at 6:45 AM for a variety of briefings on issues and bureaus of the department.
My problem with Dr.Rice is that she doesnt accept accountablity for anything that has happened during the Bush administration. She avoids accountablity with lies and vague replies. Pushing Allies in "Our Direction" will be tough without some old fashioned integrity.
Glenn Kessler: thanks for the comment
Does C. Rice still believe France must be punished, Germany forgotten and Russia forgiven and, whatever the answer, for which reasons ?
Glenn Kessler: I think she has moved beyond the formulation, which was the post-war strategy. She and Bush are clearly trying to reach out to the Europeans as the second term begins.
Do you have any feeling how Rice is viewed within the State Department? I assume she will have some big shoes to fill with Powell exiting. Do you sense any apprehension on either her part of the part of the State Department's staff?
Glenn Kessler: I think there was concern when she was named. But she picked as her deputy Robert Zoellick, the trade representative who served in Baker's State Dept, and she indicated she will also name a number of well-regarded career diplomats to critical assistant secy posts. So, for the moment, this has calmed the waters.
Los Angeles, Calif.:
What issues do you believe Mrs. Rice wants to bring to the front burner that may not alread be a high priority for the administration?
Glenn Kessler: at the moment, that's not clear--certainly not from her opening statement and answers today.
I thought the day's most interesting interchange was between Sen. Kerry and Rice. It was the first time I remember seeing Kerry speak at length since his return to the senate. Am I correct? What is the relationship between these two very public figures?
Glenn Kessler: I think you are right about that. But I don't think Kerry and Rice have much of a relationship. He was running for president most of the time she was national security adviser.
A previous writer talked about presidents appointing a "weak" Sec of State for their second term but wouldn't you agree that due to the nature of the position that the Secretary is only as strong as the president allows? Mr. Powell has a proven track record as far as leadership goes but his lack of influence with President Bush marginalized him.
Glenn Kessler: yes, that's right. Nixon had a very weak secy of State--William Rogers--because he wanted power centralized in the WH. Ultimately, he named Kissinger, a very strong secy, in part because Nixon was weakened by Watergate.
I think that Condoleezza Rice is a wonderful person. I am so glad that she holds a position so important for our country. Why did Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) engage Rice in an acerbic exchange?
Glenn Kessler: Boxer is clearly angry about the Iraq war and wanted to make a point.
Do we know what sort of relationship Sec. Powell has with his successor?
Glenn Kessler: Powell was NSA more than 15 years ago and in some ways is an older, mentor type figure.
Is this hearing anything more than sport? Even her critics admit the proceeding is a formality. She knows that it is up to her to blow it, and her innocuous answers prove she is up to the task.
Glenn Kessler: You are right in that she is well served not to cause problems when she is coasting to confirmation.
I've read that Condaleezza Rice's perceived strength, with regards to her future dealings with allies, is her close relationship with the President -- something that Colin Powell did not have. Do you think that Dr. Rice will be able to use her influence to counterbalance the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz triad?
Glenn Kessler: That's the question of the day.....it's possible. Though she might see the world similar to Cheney-Rummy and thus there would be less opportunity for conflict...
How accessible is Condoleezza Rice to the press and interviews in general? Do you expect this to change one way or the other when she starts her new position?
Glenn Kessler: She did a lot of TV as NSA but generally did not do many on-the-record press conferences. Powell did many press conferences around the world, so as someone who covers the State Dept. I hope she follows the Powell model!
Glenn Kessler: Thanks for your questions. I have to go back now and listen to the hearings.