- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031236380X
- ISBN-13: 978-0312363802
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,997,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
At the end of President George W. Bush's first term, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was prepared to leave politics and return to an academic post at Stanford University before she was drafted by Bush to be secretary of state. Two years later, polls showed American voters regarded her as the most powerful woman in the country. In this gripping and intelligent account, Washington Post correspondent Kessler chronicles those two years, drawing on his firsthand experiences traveling with Rice as well as an impressive array of documents and interviews. Kessler organizes the book by region, vividly dramatizing Rice's travels and negotiations overseas—the chapter including her visits to Khartoum and Darfur is a standout—while providing thoughtful analysis and historical background to put these vignettes in context. Kessler praises Rice for a number of successes, including her role in weakening a secret CIA prison system in Europe, but he also criticizes her failure to provide a coherent foreign policy vision and her weakness at implementation and follow-up. This balanced, detailed text offers invaluable insight into Rice's rise to power, though its exclusive focus on foreign policy may limit its appeal. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
With her long relationship with the Bush family (having served in the previous Bush administration) and ideological sympathy with the current President Bush, Rice has gained a position as trusted confidante. Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Kessler, who has traveled extensively with Secretary of State Rice, explores her career, personality, and relationship with Bush and other members of his administration. Drawing on interviews with Rice, he presents a portrait of a steely and forceful woman, capable of great charm, with the savvy to stand up to powerful political figures at home and abroad. Although Kessler examines her background for clues to her outlook on race, the book is predominantly focused on Rice's triumphs and foibles in foreign relations. He examines the policies she supported as national security advisor that later came back to haunt her as secretary of state. He offers details of Rice's involvement in tense negotiations with North Korea and Iran regarding nuclear weapons, efforts to encourage greater democracyparticularly for womenin the Middle East, and negotiations of a truce between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. She had agreed to take the position on the condition that the Bush administration would work toward creating a Palestinian state, a process that she undermined while she served as national security advisor and one that would continue to elude her. Finally, he explores her management style, lack of a coherent foreign policy vision, and desperate efforts to save Bush's foreign policy legacy and her own. Bush, Vanessa
Top customer reviews
Rice had a public profile and was popular with the public during her time on the NSC, but once she ascended to role of Secretary of State, she sought systematically to raise her public profile, and to do so largely through a series of media splashes accompanied by high fashion statements. Rice focused heavily on image. Perhaps the most salient example of a woman in power who used fashion to great effect is Margaret Thatcher, who was a relentless implementer; Kessler demonstrates that once Rice launched initiatives, her execution and implementation were weak, and apparently style trumped substance. Rice does dress the part, carries it off well, and clearly enjoys being a leading fashionista. Dean Acheson also dressed extremely well, but this was probably secondary to his diplomatic skill, and in any case his sartorial statements were not on prominent media display during his trips abroad, although I imagine had he appeared for dinner in Saudi Arabia, as Rice did, wearing flowing white silk with gold pinstripes threaded through the fabric, that would have changed quickly. But if the most innovative fashion statement conservatives can muster is the adoption the solid-color necktie look pioneered by James Baker, then we should welcome Rice's attempts to raise the bar.
While Rice is known to be extremely bright, she appears to compensate for a lack of strategic intellectual firepower with a highly developed sense of performance. Splendid performances can go a long way in diplomacy, it seems, but Rice's tenure has been marked by unlucky breaks and wrong-footed initiatives which Kessler does an outstanding job of covering, while simultaneously guiding us through some of the major foreign policy challenges of the last few years with skill and brevity. The book's title, however, suggests that a more detailed examination of the Rice-Bush relationship would be on offer, with insight into how she became so influential with Bush. Here the book falls short, but is nonetheless an essential read for anyone seeking to understand Rice's leadership, or lack of it, during a few turbulent years. Interestingly, as she was provost of a highly complex university and managed a stable of world-class talent, she seems to have brought no managerial skill at all to the running of the Department of State, neglecting to tap the vast resources available there and demonstrating her tacit acceptance of the Bush style of a closed inner circle that doesn't look beyond its own resources or mental models.
Rice brings to the table an outstanding set of personal and intellectual qualities, but if Kessler's book is accurate, she may not have the chops to take on a future leadership role in electoral politics. One can only wish her well in the remaining months of her term, but Kessler provides little comfort that major breakthroughs are to be expected, particularly in the mid-east, where Rice has declared her intent to bring peace and stability, and realize the President's stated goal of fostering a Palestinian state. Even now, her role in managing other issues, such as those presented by Iran, seems less than significant.