Loyalty above all else

Bush nominates Condoleezza Rice to replace Powell at the State Department as critics question her credentials for the job.


Suzanne Goldenberg
November 17, 2004 7:58PM (UTC)

President Bush Tuesday named his foreign policy tutor and trusted confidant, Condoleezza Rice, as America's envoy to the world, signaling that his second administration would remain fixed on the global "war on terror" and fighting rogue regimes.

With the promotion of Rice, 50, from national security advisor to secretary of state, Bush rids his administration of its last dissenting voice in Colin Powell, enabling it to project a united front on foreign policy. "During the last four years I've relied on her counsel, benefited from her great experience, and appreciated her sound and steady judgment," Bush said.

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Rice's deputy and close ally, Stephen Hadley, 57, was named as her replacement as national security advisor. Hadley, who served under the Reagan and first Bush administrations, has previously admitted he had allowed wrong information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to appear in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. Bush sketched out his foreign policy ambitions for a second term: confronting outlaw regimes and nuclear proliferators and breaking up terror networks.

Rice, he said, would be taking office at a critical time. "Meeting all of these objectives will require wise and skilful leadership at the Department of State, and Condoleezza Rice is the right person for that challenge," he said. "The United States has undertaken a great calling of history to aid the forces of reform and freedom in the broader Middle East so that that region can grow in hope," he said. Rice signaled that she would live up to her reputation as a Bush family loyalist. "Under your leadership, America is fighting and winning the war on terror," she said.

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: "She is someone who we have a very close and regular working relationship with, and for whom the prime minister holds immense regard."

However, there was a fear even within Republican circles that the White House was too willing to sacrifice diplomatic expertise and management skills for personal loyalty. Several Washington analysts said Tuesday that Rice's strongest qualification for the job was her close friendship with Bush. The warmth of that relationship was on display yesterday, with Rice close to tears as Bush welcomed her to the post.

Some argued that despite her academic record -- Rice is an expert on the former Soviet Union -- and her long service to the Bush family, she is not equipped to serve as America's ambassador to the world. "Condoleezza Rice was loyal to the president, and clearly has his confidence, but she never really managed the interagency process the way a national security advisor should," said Joseph Cirincione, an arms control expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "Most of the world will see Condi Rice as a step down from Colin Powell, and they would be right. She doesn't bring much experience or knowledge of the world to this position."

There were reports Tuesday that Powell had hesitated before resigning as secretary of state. Although he had long said he would stand down after serving a single term, the Washington Post reported that he had recently expressed a desire to stay, but had been rebuffed by the White House. During his speech, Bush paid tribute to Powell as "one of the most effective and admired diplomats in America's history."

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But further evidence of the ascendancy of the neoconservatives at the State Department arrived with reports that John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, was the favorite to succeed Richard Armitage as deputy secretary of state.

Armitage, a close friend of Powell's who shares his views, announced his resignation Tuesday. Bolton is seen as a hawk among hawks, an ardent supporter of Taiwan and a harsh critic of institutions such as the International Criminal Court. He is viewed as a hard-liner on North Korea and has said regime change in Iran would be the next U.S. priority.

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Suzanne Goldenberg

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