Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Calm centre of power

If Condoleezza Rice writes a cheque, George W. Bush will cash it. That's how influential she is, writes foreign editor Greg Sheridan in the Australian.

CONDOLEEZZA Rice is the most powerful woman in the world, the most powerful woman in American history, the most powerful black woman since the Queen of Sheba - well, you get the drift.

She may also rank as one of the more influential secretaries of state in recent US history.
In some ways Rice is already more powerful than Powell ever was, partly because of her legendary closeness to the President. The whole world knows that if Rice writes a cheque, Bush will cash it. Rice unequivocally speaks for the Bush administration. Powell, forever locked in policy fights with Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - fights Powell more often than not lost - was never quite in that position.
At the State Department she made an exceptionally shrewd decision in appointing Bob Zoellick as deputy. Zoellick, having been US trade representative in the first Bush administration, is a former cabinet secretary. In the 1980s he was undersecretary of state. So he is a bureaucratic heavyweight, as committed a workaholic as Rice, a figure capable of devising and driving policy, and a veteran of the interagency process.

For all that, Rice has no need to feel threatened or overshadowed by Zoellick. By appointing a powerful team at state, continuing to dominate the NSC and maintaining her closeness to Bush, she has ensured a powerful stay at State's Foggy Bottom.

Rice and Zoellick have travelled more widely and frequently than Powell and his senior officials. They have attempted to combine a renewed emphasis on consultation with allies with a commitment to promoting democracy and human rights internationally, but not by military means, Iraq excepted. Rest here


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