Bush I

“Condi was brilliant. . . . She has a manner and presence that disarms the biggest of the big shots. Why? Because they know she knows what she is talking about.”

—Former President George H. W. Bush

IN her fourth year at Stanford, Condi was invited to address the graduates on Senior Class Day. At thirty, the assistant professor looked as young as the twenty-two-year-old students, but her words of advice revealed a good deal of worldly experience. She talked to them about tackling the problems of the Cold War world without becoming overwhelmed, suggesting that any contribution to a solution, however small, was valuable. “All you have to do with the large, huge, and very frightening problems that we face is to make a contribution,” she said. “If you focus too much on solving that problem, rather than just making a contribution to its solution, I’m afraid that you will become paralyzed at the enormity of the task and unable to do anything at all. People say that time is running out for us. Well, maybe. . . . All that we can do is hope that we have the time and to work consistently to make sure that we make good use of that time.”

For Condi, making good use of her time included public service. Growing up in Birmingham, she had watched her parents devote their lives to children, outside the classroom as much as in. Their strategy for combating civil injustice was to arm the youth with confidence, education, and opportunity, constantly and patiently preparing them to thrive in an unfair world. This sense of responsibility and commitment was ingrained in Condi, and she hoped to channel her knowledge into making a contribution to the decision-making processes that shaped national security.

Her year-long job at the Pentagon gave her a hint of how policy was transformed into action, and she was eager to have a hand in the process. Even though she was not interested in partisan politics, she had devoted her academic career to the study of conflict resolution and military strategy and she hoped to one day have the opportunity to put her expertise to use in Washington. In the meantime, she became involved in problem-solving in her own community of Stanford, California.

In 1986, Condi joined the Board of Directors of the Stanford Mid-Peninsula Urban Coalition, an organization that helped minorities with health, housing, education, business start-up, and other issues. One of the primary functions of the Coalition was helping run the Peninsula Academies, which provided vocational and academic training to minority students at high risk of dropping out of high school. The academies were founded in 1981 with the goals of improving students’ grades, developing positive attitudes about education, learning about work and responsibility, improving attendance, and preparing for work and/or college. Back in Birmingham, John Rice had done exactly the same in his youth fellowship program at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Condi served on the board for three years.

In 1988, she was elected to the leadership of another education-oriented organization, KQED, San Francisco’s public broadcasting network. The mission of this television and radio network was (and remains) to promote “lifelong learning, the power of ideas and the importance of community service and civic participation.” In her candidate’s letter to KQED, Condi described the assets she felt she could bring to the station’s Board of Directors:

Television and radio play a major, perhaps the major, role in informing Americans about the problems and opportunities that we face as a polity. . . . Directors should be thought of as committed representatives of the viewing public; able from different perspectives to identify those areas in which public broadcasting, through information and exploration of ideas, can make a difference. The Bay Area is an international community with a major stake in America’s international economic and political future and KQED must provide programming commensurate with that stake. As a professor of international politics and Soviet affairs, I am particularly concerned that this challenge be met. I can bring concern and expertise on these important issues to the Board.

Just one month after being elected to the Board, however, Condi accepted the position with the National Security Council in Washington. She submitted her resignation before having the opportunity to attend any Board meetings.

Condi reached a large audience in the Bay Area community when she was asked to give a speech at the Commonwealth Club, the public affairs forum that hosts hundreds of events each year to explore politics, society, culture, and other contemporary issues. The Club began its public speech series in 1911 with Teddy Roosevelt, and those who have followed include celebrity politicians and national figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Erin Brockovich, and Bill Gates. On May 9, 1988, Condi delivered a speech entitled “U.S.-Soviet Relations: The Gorbachev Era” for the Club’s Friday Luncheon Program at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The speech was heard throughout the country via live radio broadcast.

Two other speaking engagements highlighted thirty-three-year-old Professor Rice’s calendar in that period. In November 1987, she was invited to be a visiting scholar for a few days at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She lectured and led a seminar for students in the university’s Center for Russian and East European Studies, and also gave a public speech about Gorbachev. The following spring, in April 1988, she made a trip to the USSR to give a speech at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Moscow.

Condi’s community activities were motivated by a genuine desire to do public service, a characteristic that did not go unnoticed by her colleagues. “I think of people as being one of two types,” said John Raisian, Director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. “One group looks at the politics of an organization and thinks strategically as they climb the career ladder. Others look for opportunities to make a difference, independent of where that puts them on the ladder. Condi is very much the latter.” He added that she is the sort of person who thrives on taking on many things at once. In addition to her teaching, writing, and research, “she has always had advisory interests and capacities,” he said. “She’s always been a very busy and full-plate-type person.”

Her plate began to fill up during her first year at Stanford when she started serving on several university committees and other administrative organizations. Her committee involvement included the Public Service Center Steering Committee, which she chaired (1987 and 1991-1999); the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, which she also chaired for one year (1982-1985 and 1988-1989); the Executive Committee of the Institute for International Studies (1988-1989 and 1991-1993); and the Graduate Admissions Committee, which she chaired for one year (1991-1992). She was also the Director of Graduate Studies and a member of the Faculty Senate in 1988 and 1989. The Senate handles the internal administration of the university, from setting policy to drafting new rules and statutes regarding degree programs. The Senate’s proposals are forwarded to the Board of Trustees for approval.

In 1985, Condi was awarded a National Fellowship from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, which allowed her to take a break from her classroom work and devote an entire year to research. Founded by Herbert Hoover in 1919, the Institution was one of the first think tanks in the United States and has amassed one of the world’s largest archives and libraries on twentieth century politics, economics, and social issues. In its mission statement, Hoover defines itself as a research organization committed to “generating ideas that define a free society. . . . [and] contributing to the pursuits of securing and safeguarding peace, improving the human condition and limiting government intrusion into the lives of individuals.”

Among the research opportunities for scholars at Hoover is the National Fellows Program, which supports junior scholars who are completing research projects. That year, Condi was among fourteen people selected from throughout the country for the fellowship. It was the first of three Hoover fellowships she would receive during her years at Stanford. As a National Fellow from September 1985 to the August 1986, she completed The Gorbachev Era with Alexander Dallin, one of her three published books. Dallin was an emeritus professor of political science and history at Stanford when he died in July 2000, and his colleagues at the university’s Center for Russian and East European Studies described him as “a distinguished scholar and a kind and wise human being.” Working on a book with Dallin was an honor in itself, as he was one of the country’s foremost experts on the Soviet Union and one of the first generation of graduates from Columbia University’s Russian Institute.


Condi atop her uncle’s car, age five, in 1959. Courtesy of Condoleezza Rice

A school picture in Birmingham, age seven. Courtesy of Condoleezza Rice



The Rice home in Birmingham, just a few blocks from Westminster Presbyterian Church where Condi’s father was the pastor. The home was built by the church to serve as the parish house shortly after Condi was born. Photo by Antonia Felix


Inside Westminster Presbyterian Church. During Sunday services, Condi played the piano (front left) while her mother played the organ (front right) and her father preached from the center pulpit. Photo by Antonia Felix Westminster Presbyterian Church on South Sixth Avenue (Titusville) in Birmingham. Photo by Antonia Felix



A portrait of Condi’s grandfather, John Wesley Rice, whom she discussed in her speech at the Republican National Convention in 2000. Reverend Rice left sharecropping to attend college and become a Presbyterian minister, and he founded Westminster Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. His son, Condi’s father, took over as minister of the church in 1951. Courtesy of Westminster Presbyterian Church


Condi skating at age thirteen in Denver, Colorado, 1967. Condi’s parents spent several summers taking graduate school courses at the University of Denver, and while they were in class during the day, Condi practiced figure skating. She once referred to her lessons on the rink as “high-priced child care.” The Rices moved to Denver permanently in 1969. Courtesy of Condoleezza Rice


Condi, age seventeen, with her mother, Angelena, and father, John Wesley Rice III, on the day Condi was named Outstanding Junior Woman at the University of Denver, 1972. Courtesy of Condoleezza Rice


Two undergraduate portraits taken at the University of Denver. Courtesy of the University of Denver



Condi’s father in a public speaking engagement at the University of Denver. John Rice was a lecturer as well as an administrator during his career at the university, teaching courses in black studies and serving as an associate dean, vice chancellor, and in other posts. Courtesy of the University of Denver


Josef Korbel, University of Denver professor, father of Madeleine Albright, and Condi’s mentor in Russian and Soviet studies. Condi remembers him as one of the most important people in her life. Courtesy of the University of Denver


At Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies with Dean Edward Thomas Rowe (left), and university Chancellor Dan Ritchie (right). Courtesy of the University of Denver


Guest commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame, where she received her master’s degree in government in 1975. Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame

Assistant professor of political science at Stanford University, age twenty-six. Courtesy of Stanford University News Service



Professor Rice teaching at Stanford, May 1993, at thirty-nine. Courtesy of Stanford University News Service


Provost of Stanford, 1995, enjoying a return to the classroom to discuss the fall of communism. Courtesy of Stanford University News Service


Working out in the strength training room at Stanford. Exercise is a high priority in Condi’s life, and she keeps a rigorous daily workout schedule. “I put her through the same regimes I did with any athlete at Stanford,” said Stanford trainer Mark Mateska. Photo by Frederic Neema/Corbis Sygma


On George W. Bush’s campaign trail in October 2000 with Laura Bush (left) and Barbara Bush (center) to support the “W is for Women” push. Photo by Rebecca Cook/© Reuters 2000


The White House senior staff swearing-in ceremony on January 22, 2001. Condi is the first woman and the second black person to become a national security advisor. Photo by Larry Downing/© Reuters 2001


National Security Advisor Rice in the Oval Office with President Bush, April 11, 2001. She is one of the president’s closest confidants as well as a long-time Bush family friend who previously served as one of Bush Senior’s top Soviet advisors. Photo by Ho/© Reuters 2001


A pat on the cheek for Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Oval Office. As national security advisor, Condi’s job is to referee the often very differing views of the secretary of state, secretary of defense, and other members of the National Security Council and bring their opinions to the president. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/© Reuters 2002


Shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on May 24, 2002. Condi speaks fluent Russian, and devoted her academic career to the study of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/© Reuters 2002

An impassioned moment with the Moscow press in July 2001, after meetings about arms control talks between the United States and Russia. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/ © Reuters 2001



Accepting the NAACP President’s Award at the Image Awards ceremony on February 23, 2002. Photo by Jim Ruymen/© Reuters 2002


Fielding a question at a White House briefing on November 1, 2001. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Condi came to the forefront as one of the White House’s lead spokespeople on the war on terrorism. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/© Reuters 2001

Condi the collectible—the TOPPS “Enduring Freedom” trading card featuring National Security Advisor Rice. Courtesy of TOPPS 2001



Accompanying cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a Brahms piece performed at the National Medal of Arts Ceremony in Washington on April 22, 2002. Condi, who started lessons at age three, is an accomplished pianist who trained for a professional career until her junior year in college, when she changed her major to international relations. Photo by Larry Downing/ © Reuters 2002


The official White House portrait of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. White House photo by Tina Hager


Condoleezza Rice is sworn in to testify before the 9/11 Commission, April 8, 2004. © Larry Downing/Reuters/Corbis


President George W. Bush nominates Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, November 16, 2004. © Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Corbis

The Gorbachev Era is a collection of essays by leading figures in the field of Soviet studies, many from Stanford, which had been presented at a summer program at Stanford in 1985. In addition to editing the book, Condi contributed two essays entitled “The Development of Soviet Military Power” and “The Soviet Alliance System.” Dallin’s entries were “The Legacy of the Past” and “A Soviet Master Plan? The Non-Existent ‘Grand Design’ in World Affairs.”

Dallin’s wife, a Soviet specialist at the University of California at Berkeley, also contributed two essays to the book, and she recalled how the project got started. “The Stanford Alumni Association had asked Alex to develop a series of lectures for its summer program while Chernenko was still the Party’s General Secretary,” she said. “By the time of the lectures Gorbachev was the country’s new leader and a major transition was under way in the USSR. The chapters examine the nature of the various crises confronting the Soviet system—economic, political, social, military, foreign policy—and also represent one of the early efforts to speculate about what possible direction Soviet policy might take under Gorbachev.” Dr. Lapidus contributed two chapters to the book, “Soviet Society in Transition” and “The Soviet Nationality Question,” and she recalled that her husband and Condi worked well together in spite of their differing political views. “Clearly they approached international affairs and the USSR from rather different political perspectives,” she said, “but these differences didn’t stand in the way of a warm personal relationship, and Condi paid a touching tribute to Alex at a memorial service in our garden when he died.”

The most difficult part of Condi’s life in 1985 was being far away from her parents. Back in Denver, her mother was battling breast cancer and that year, at age sixty-one, she died. Condi flew home to attend the funeral and to grieve with her father and the many relatives who flew to Denver to be with them. Friends recall that music—which was so central to Angelena’s life—encircled them as they thought about her quietly back at the Rice home. “I never shall forget the day we returned from her mother’s funeral,” said Evelyn Glover, a family friend from Birmingham. “When we came in, Condoleezza prayed with everyone and said, ‘Let’s play some of mother’s favorite hymns.’ And she went to the piano.”

During the year of her first Hoover fellowship, Condi also began work on a book about the history and development of military staffs in the United States and the Soviet Union. She continued working on the book after she returned to her teaching, but it was slow going with all of the other responsibilities on her schedule. A couple of years later that book was put on hold indefinitely. In February of 1989 she got a call from an old acquaintance, Brent Scowcroft, who convinced her to take a leave of absence from teaching and put her Soviet expertise into practice.

Scowcroft had just been named national security advisor to newly elected President George Bush, and he wanted Condi to be part of his team on the National Security Council. A moderate Republican and long-time career military man and academic, he would have an enormous influence on Condi’s development as a foreign policy specialist. They shared a passion for Soviet history, they both had academic careers teaching Soviet history, they both spoke Russian and they both held a power politics outlook on international relations.

Stepping in as national security advisor was a smooth transition for Brent because he had served in that post under President Gerald Ford. In that administration, Henry Kissinger was both national security advisor and secretary of state, and Brent was his deputy, his righthand man in national security. When Kissinger stepped down as national security advisor to devote all of his time and energy to his role as secretary of state, Brent replaced him as national security advisor.

Brent, who describes himself as someone who likes to stay out of the limelight, never gave press interviews as national security advisor. He kept eighteen-hour days in the White House, and was widely respected as a consensus builder and expert organizer. In the Ford administration, everyone understood that Kissinger made the foreign policy, and Scowcroft managed, organized, and coordinated it between various agencies and the Oval Office. In terms of recognition, Kissinger’s term as national security advisor was the most high-profile in history and Scowcroft’s the most low-key.

Despite his quiet and unassuming demeanor, Brent is a foreign policy luminary with a long career in the military and the departments of state and defense. Born in Ogden, Utah, he is a Mormon who neither smokes nor drinks. He and his wife, Marian, who have been married since 1951, have one daughter. After graduating from West Point Brent planned on a career as a pilot in the Air Force, but an accident in a defective plane ruined his chances for flying. He went on to get a master’s degree in international relations from Columbia University and returned to West Point as a professor of Russian history. He learned to speak Russian fluently and pursued more Slavic language study at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., after which he used his skills in a foreign service post at the United States embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

In the early 1960s he was an associate professor of political science at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, where he eventually became full professor and chair of the department. His academic career progressed after he finished his Ph.D. in international relations at Columbia University, and was hired to teach military strategy and security to senior military at the National War College. His career continued to span both academia and government, with a post on the long-range planning staff at Air Force headquarters in Washington and several national security jobs at the Pentagon.

By the time he reached the rank of colonel in 1971, he was appointed one of President Nixon’s military aides and helped construct the realpolitik diplomatic stance with China that culminated in Nixon’s historic trip to China in 1972. After returning from the trip, Brent was promoted to brigadier general. He then went to Moscow as the leader of the advance team to organize Nixon’s trip to the Soviet Union in 1972.

During the Nixon years, Brent was at the center of nuclear arms policy, helping craft the SALT II treaty. He was also given the job of organizing the withdrawal of Americans from Saigon during the evacuation in April 1975.

In contrast to the Nixon/Kissinger strategy of détente, President Reagan took a more aggressive approach to the Soviet Union and Brent was not appointed to a defense or state department post. But the administration needed his military expertise, particularly on analyzing the newly developed multiple-warhead weaponry that was part of Reagan’s fast-growing arsenal. He led the Commission on Strategic Forces to analyze how this weapon could be used. His national security background was also put to use in that administration. Reagan appointed him head of the Tower Commission to investigate the National Security Council’s role in the Iran-Contra affair. In his report, Brent placed the greatest blame on Reagan’s chief of staff but also criticized the president for not keeping track of the Council members and their activities. He concluded that the structure of the National Security Council was not the problem, but the people who were serving in it.

After Brent met Condi at a dinner hosted by the Stanford political science department in 1987, he followed up with her and sat in on one of her classes. Her lecture on the MX missile convinced him that she would be a great asset to his national security team in the new Bush administration. He talked to her at length at a foreign policy strategy meeting in Aspen, Colorado, then invited her on board at the National Security Council.

As national security advisor, Brent’s job was to gather foreign policy opinions and strategies from cabinet members such as Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, Secretary of State James Baker, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell. All three were members of the National Security Council (NSC), the advisory group that discussed foreign policy issues and drafted strategies for implementing that policy.

Scowcroft presented various NSC members’ ideas to the president and made it a priority to keep conflicts and rivalries in check to ensure a smooth-running operation. “Scowcroft and Baker placed a premium on cooperation,” wrote Condoleezza and Philip Zelikow in their book about German unification. “Bitter rivalries between the State Department and the National Security Council staff had been a standard feature of Washington politics since the 1960s,” they added, and although disagreements were part of the territory in any administration, a hallmark of Scowcroft’s style was to prevent upheaval and concentrate on cooperation. “Disputes arose but were always quickly contained,” wrote Condi and Philip.

In January 1989, Condi became director of Soviet and East European affairs at the National Security Council. “I had chosen Condi,” said Brent, “because she had extensive knowledge of Soviet history and politics, great objective balance in evaluating what was going on, and a penetrating mind with an affinity for strategy and conceptualization. She [was] . . . conversant and up to date with military affairs.” He also felt that she could hold her own when the job got rough. “She was charming and affable, but could be tough as nails when the situation required,” he said. Four months later she was upgraded to senior director for Soviet affairs and also named special assistant to the president for national security affairs. Condi’s closest associates were Philip Zelikow, manager of European policy and Dennis Ross, another Soviet specialist and director of policy planning. Condi knew Dennis from California, where he had been a professor at Berkeley. All three were accountable to Robert Blackwill, the senior director for European and Soviet affairs.

Besides the president and cabinet members mentioned above, other members of the president’s National Security Council included Brent’s deputy, Robert Gates, and Robert Hutchings, head of the Council’s Southeastern Europe and Germany departments. Others with whom Condi worked closely included Robert Zoellick in the state department and Paul Wolfowitz in the department of defense.

Condi held three major job responsibilities as part of the National Security Council staff. First, she helped coordinate the policy-making process by gathering information from those at the assistant secretary or undersecretary level. Second, she served as an aid to Brent Scowcroft, helping him decide which foreign officials to see and preparing for those visits. “We went to the meetings,” she said, “and I would write a paper for him suggesting issues he might want to raise. If an issue couldn’t be settled at my level and it had to go to the Scowcroft, Baker, Cheney, Powell level, then it was my responsibility to make sure Brent was prepared.” Her third area of responsibility was acting as the president’s “personal foreign policy staff.” In this function, she wrote briefing papers about issues to be raised at foreign policy meetings with other heads of state.

The first job she faced as one of the president’s top political minds was cracking the case of the 500-pound cake.

On the administration’s first day at work in January, the White House received a huge box with a Soviet postmark but no other identifying information. The Secret Service’s bomb squad carefully transported it to a secure area and, decked out in full bomb-proof regalia, opened it. Inside was a slightly crushed but magnificently decorated, gigantic cake. Condi was enlisted to track down who sent it. With only a postmark to go on, she launched a personal investigation and discovered that a bakers’ collective from a small Soviet town had made the cake for President Bush to congratulate him on his inauguration.

The president found this very touching, and he asked that a photo be taken of him and his family by the cake and sent to the bakers’ group. He then wanted the cake sent to a charity that could distribute and enjoy it. The photo session took several days to organize and by the time the cake was to be sent away the rats in the Secret Service warehouse had polished most of it off.

In March, Condi was given her first critical assignment—one that put her at the center of the policy-making process. The president had just received a lengthy National Security Review outlining the United States’ policy history with the Soviet Union. He had requested this report in an effort to begin formulating his own approach to Gorbachev. Brent Scowcroft thought the report was sorely lacking in both detail and ideas, and he instructed Condi to lead a National Security Council team in writing up a “think piece” that focused on Gorbachev—the policies he had already formed and the ideas he had for the future.

Up until then, Condi had written about Gorbachev, publishing articles about him in journals and book compilations and adding substance to the study of the Soviet Union. With this assignment, she had an opportunity to put her knowledge of Gorbachev and the Soviet system to work as a shaper of U.S. policy for the first time. The document that came out of her group formed the basis of the Bush administration’s policy with the Soviet Union. “Condi’s memo laid out the premises that I believed should guide the development of an overall strategy for U.S.-Soviet relations,” wrote Scowcroft, “and it evolved into a four-part approach for coping with Gorbachev.”

He described these four steps as strengthening America’s foreign policy image with a clear, confident policy agenda; ensuring that America’s allies understand the U.S. commitment to them and to arms control; taking action—including economic aid—in Eastern Europe to promote the independence launched by Gorbachev’s reforms; and working “aggressively to promote regional stability” in the world through U.S.-Soviet cooperation.

Condi’s input to this blueprint for American foreign policy included a supporting memo that discussed the turmoil within the Soviet Union. She pointed out that as Moscow’s old political structures crumbled, it was forced to look for guidance in the outside world. This opened up the possibility of an ambitious and dramatic new approach to the Soviet Union, one that involved “setting our sights literally on transforming the behavior of the Soviet Union at home and abroad,” according to Brent Scowcroft.

Condi’s next assignment, like the cake incident, involved more sleuthing. The new administration was being criticized for not defining its foreign policy position or announcing goals or strategies that would signal where the government’s policy was headed. The decision was made to schedule the president’s policy speeches during the coming spring commencement season. But an event in Eastern Europe prompted the administration to bump up that schedule. In early April, Solidarity was made legal in Poland, and the nation broke away from forty-five years of Communist rule. With Poland’s new rush toward democracy, the administration had a cause around which to form its Eastern European policy. They scheduled the president’s Poland/Eastern European policy speech to take place in Hamtramck, Michigan, on April 17. Brent described Hamtramck as a “natural” choice because “it had a high concentration of families with ties to Eastern Europe, particularly Poland. . . . It was the right place to talk about change inside the Soviet Union and our aspirations for Poland’s freedom.”

With the speech only two weeks away, Bush’s aides had to work fast. In this case, he immediately put Condi to work searching for money within government programs that could be pulled to use as economic aid to Poland. This was a difficult task in an environment of tight budgets and a huge deficit. The president also had to decide about whether or not to make economic aid a big part of his policy. The National Security Council meeting devoted to that topic brought up two views: sending money to Poland was risky because the country may not be able to make good use of it yet. One member argued that the United States had sent economic aid to Poland in the 1970s to support some political changes, but it had made no difference because the infrastructure wasn’t ready for it yet. The same thing could happen this time. On the other side, President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker argued that Poland was making great economic strides this time and it was a completely different situation. The president had to make his own decision, and he ultimately decided to try to find as much financial aid as possible to include in his policy toward Poland.

The question of who would write the speech sparked a controversy between the national security staff and the president’s speechwriters. Brent felt that the National Security Council was the logical choice because they were closest to the substance of the issue. The speechwriters argued that they were perfectly capable of nailing down the content as well, and they resented the fact that anyone would call that into question. Brent compromised and assigned the first draft to Condoleezza and chief speechwriter Mark Davis. President Bush then put his own mark on the speech, adding his own nuance and tone until he felt it perfectly reflected his view as well as his voice.

In July 1989, Condi joined President Bush, Brent Scowcroft, and their official delegation to Poland and Hungary, where the president addressed the crowds with promises of economic support for Eastern European democracy movements. In Warsaw and Gdansk, Poland, they met with Solidarity leaders Lech Walesa and General Wojciech Jaruzelski, and Bush made an address at the National Assembly. In Budapest, they met with Communist leaders including Prime Minister Miklòs Nèmeth, who presented the president with a memento that hinted at the monumental changes to come. “Nèmeth presented President Bush with a plaque containing a piece of the barbed wire from the border fence between Hungary and Austria—a literal piece of the Iron Curtain,” wrote Scowcroft. Hungary had opened its border with Austria, and although this created a problem with East Germans trying to flee to the West via Hungary, it portrayed Hungary as a “beacon of light” in Eastern Europe.

In the fall of 1989, Condi faced a situation in which she proved Brent correct about her ability to handle herself when the going got tough. She was to greet Boris Yeltsin—the garrulous, heavy-drinking Soviet official—at the White House entrance and direct him to a meeting. Yeltsin, then a member of the Soviet parliament, was Gorbachev’s most vocal critic, frequently lashing out about how slowly his economic reforms were moving. During his U.S. tour that September he became a press magnet for his unpredictable, red-faced outbursts and colorful personality.

President Bush and Scowcroft had to decide whether or not Yeltsin would get a White House visit. Their carefully planned structure for meeting foreign political guests had three levels. The most prestigious visit was a scheduled meeting with the president. One step down was a meeting with Brent, with a “drop by” visit from the president that could last as long as the president desired. The third type was a meeting with Brent alone. Entrance to the White House was another factor—if Brent wanted the press to have access to the guest, the official would be brought in through the West Lobby. Those whom he wished to keep away from the press were brought through the West Basement doors.

President Bush wanted to meet Yeltsin and he asked Brent to schedule a drop-by meeting in Brent’s office. On September 12, Yeltsin was instructed to arrive at the basement entrance, where Condi was waiting for him. True to form, Yeltsin refused to budge from his car unless Condi promised to take him to the Oval Office. “This isn’t the door you go in to see the president,” he yelled at Condi, who reminded him that his meeting was with the national security advisor, not President Bush. “I’ve never heard of General Scowcroft,” he barked at her. “He’s not important enough to meet with me.” Fuming, with arms crossed defiantly over his chest, he sat in the car and glared at Condi, who glared back without saying a word. The stare-down lasted five minutes. Then Condi began to turn away and said, in an impassive tone, that he might as well return to his hotel as she would inform the general that he was not coming. Yeltsin relented, agreed to see Scowcroft, and stomped out of the car. Condi grabbed him by the elbow and brusquely led him up the stairs.

Those who witnessed this exchange were amazed at Condi’s complete lack of intimidation. They knew she was confident and self-assured, but until that day they had not seen the depth of her fortitude.

Yeltsin was delighted when the president dropped by the meeting for a few minutes. When he left and his car began leaving the White House grounds, he spotted a cluster of reporters taping their stand-up reports. He jumped from the car, attracted the crowd, and proceeded to speak to several journalists. Although it was not the quiet exit Brent had orchestrated, “no harm was done,” and Yeltsin soon returned to Moscow.

Two months later, the fall of the Berlin Wall revealed the groundbreaking changes taking place in Eastern Europe. A few weeks after that jubilant event, Condi accompanied President Bush and his national security delegation to the Malta Summit, where they presented their position to Gorbachev. As described in Chapter Six, this was Condi’s first meeting with Gorbachev and other top-ranking Soviet officials. The Soviet president’s attitude upon meeting her was just one of many surprised reactions she would receive. “I think the Russians would sometimes feel, ‘What’s a girl like you doing here amidst bombs and bullets?’” she said. Other than that, she was not certain exactly how the white male Soviet power structure actually felt about her. “It was initially hard for the Russians to accept me,” she said. “I never figured out if it was because I was female, or black, or young. But by and large, they’ve managed to deal with it.” Her schedule didn’t give her time to worry about it and her attitude has never been one of intimidation. “I never have felt lonely or stressed in these environments,” she said. “You just get caught up in the fourteen-to-fifteen-hour days.”

From time to time, Condi ran into problems as a black/female minority within the foreign policy ranks. When Gorbachev made his first visit across the United States in June 1990, for example, Condi was chosen to lead the American delegation that escorted him to various cities. At the airport in San Francisco, a secret service agent—who for some odd reason had no idea who Condi was—tried to prevent her from stepping out onto the tarmac with the rest of the group. “He was right in my face in a confrontational way,” she recalled. “And that provokes a confrontational attitude from me.” The incident was reported in the press and proved highly embarrassing for the secret service. The image of a white agent brusquely keeping the only black person in the group away from the leader of the Soviet Union did not paint a good portrait of American race relations. Condi remarked that she is no “shrinking violet” in situations like this.

Another episode that illustrates the sexism any woman is likely to face in the field of international relations came years later when Condi was working in the second Bush administration and on an official visit to Israel. Ariel Sharon, then a candidate for prime minister, told journalists, “I have to confess, it was hard for me to concentrate in the conversation with Condoleezza Rice because she has very nice legs.” Another journalist explained that such remarks are generally overlooked in Israel because of the prevalence of the macho military attitude. “You know these people who serve too many years in the army,” she said, “it’s the way they see things.”

A priority of the Malta Summit of December 1989 was discussion of the reunification of Germany, a prospect that the Soviets feared “would rip the heart out of the Soviet security system.” Gorbachev, whose proposals for more economic freedom in the Soviet satellite countries led to bold demonstrations and border openings, had not anticipated the swift rush toward independence that these nations would take. Condi was among the small group that developed the policy that Bush brought to Malta as well as to other European summits that year. The policy-making group consisted of Condi, Philip Zelikow (with whom she would write a book about German reunification), Robert Blackwill, Peter Zoellick, and Dennis Ross. They were Scowcroft’s top aides regarding German reunification.

Condi’s group crafted an American policy toward Germany and the “new Europe” that involved Germany’s self-determination and commitment to NATO. It also stressed that all transformation be “peaceful, gradual, and part of a step-by-step process.” Another goal was to have reunification take place quickly, before the Soviets and others could hamper the process with formal counterproposals. Condi played a major role in shaping this part of the policy. In an early 1990 memo to Scowcroft she stated that the five-year plan announced by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was too slow, allowing too much time for the USSR to intervene and play a strong hand. She persuaded Scowcroft and his staff that time was of the essence. “It was a risky move,” said Philip Zelikow. “But it turned out to be accurate.”

The sweeping transformation of Germany did occur quickly. In March 1990, the first free East German election was held, and pro-unification parties won the majority. In September, European leaders met in Moscow to sign the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, which recognized East Germany’s union with West Germany. “Today’s agreement settles the external aspects of the establishment of German unity and makes the achievement of a unified, free, and democratic Germany just a short step away,” said White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater. A photo included in Condi’s book Germany Unified and Europe Transformed shows her standing in the crowd behind the signer’s table at this historic event. Of the approximately thirty-five people shown, she appears to be one of only two women in the room. On October 3, 1990, the two Germanys signed the official unification treaty.

With the loss of East Germany, the Soviet Union was firmly set on a course of destruction that the world had not anticipated. Condi was at the center of American policy during this process until she left her post in March 1991. In January of that year, Lithuania and Latvia’s struggle for independence erupted in violence—one of the few bloody episodes in the entire transformation. More Baltic states broke away in a domino effect, and in June 1991, Russia was allowed to vote for its own president for the first time, and Yeltsin became the Russian leader while Gorbachev remained the head of the Soviet Union. In December, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus secretly met to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Soviet Union was permanently disbanded. On Christmas Day, Gorbachev announced that he was stepping down. At the Kremlin, the red and yellow-sickle Soviet flag was replaced by the white, blue, and red flag of the new Russian Federation.

During Condi’s two-year term with the National Security Council, she had not only become close friends of President George Bush and his wife Barbara, but had made an indelible impression upon him and the rest of his staff. Bush was enormously impressed in her performance and it came as no surprise that he wanted George W. to meet her when he won his first political campaign and became governor of Texas. Bush Senior appreciated Condi’s diplomatic style as much as her intellectual resources, as expressed in a note he wrote to a journalist in 2000:

Condi was brilliant, but she never tried to flaunt it while in meetings with foreign leaders. . . . Her temperament was such that she had an amazing way of getting along with people, of making a strong point without being disagreeable to those who differed. . . . She has a manner and presence that disarms the biggest of the big shots. Why? Because they know she knows what she is talking about.

Others who have worked with Condi agree that her dynamic personality, combined with her intellect, make up a formidable package that contributes to her success. George Brinkley, her Notre Dame professor, summed it up when he said, “She’s not only a person with extraordinary ambition and intellectual abilities, she has quite a remarkable personality that has played a role in her advancement.”

For Condi, those two years in the Bush administration were a life experience that she knew she could never repeat. “It was an exciting time,” she said. “You could go to bed one night and wake up with some country having changed its social system overnight, with a new democracy to deal with.” She felt gratified to be part of an administration that helped make Germany’s transition a smooth and positive one for the United States and its allies. “Was it inevitable that Germany unified on completely Western terms, within NATO,” she said, “that Soviet troops went home, with dignity and without incident; that American troops stayed; that all of Eastern Europe was liberated and joined the Western bloc? No, it was not inevitable—and that leaves a lot of room for statecraft.”

She was also grateful for the people with whom she practiced that statecraft. “My colleagues were the smartest people I had ever met, and we all hit the ground together with resolution of the issues that I had been taught were the most important in the international policy field on the table,” she said in 1995. “I ask myself if I would ever have that constellation of forces, events and personalities again . . . [including] a president I adored . . . George Bush, for whom the great issues at the end of the Cold War were priority number one.”

Overall, working with her immediate boss stood out as the personal highlight of the job. “The most personally satisfying was working with Brent Scowcroft,” she said.

Condi knew she had been spoiled by working in Washington during one of the most eventful periods in political history—and having such a vital role in the process—and she didn’t expect to return to the White House any time soon. In a speech given several years later, President Bush reiterated his admiration for his staff during that turbulent and exciting time, a staff that included his good friend Condoleezza Rice:

Excellence describes the people that I had at my side, and it was a joy, a blessing to work with each of them.

Make no mistake, they were good and decent people, but they were tough, too, with strong views, and they were mature men and women who understood that power had a purpose. And moreover, seeing them work together it was clear that they respected one another.

As we debated one issue or another, they would often argue views very forcefully. But once the decision, once the President made the decision, we closed up the ranks. That’s the way it ought to be.

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