WASHINGTON, April 4 — Condoleezza Rice was, perhaps, in the best position to galvanize the government to prevent terrorist attacks before Sept. 11, 2001. As national security adviser she sat at the nexus of the intelligence, foreign policy, defense and law enforcement agencies who shared responsibility for counterterrorism.
That is why, as the White House scrambles to defend against charges that President Bush and his advisers paid too little heed before Sept. 11 to potential for terror attacks on American soil, Ms. Rice finds herself at the center of the storm.
The New York Times bleats mournfully. And we can all see what’s coming, can’t we?
On Thursday, testifying publicly in front of the commission examining the attacks, she will be pressed to square her account of events — one of heightened alerts and the development of new policies to oust Al Qaeda and the Taliban — with accusations by Richard A. Clarke, who served under her as counterterrorism adviser, that the new administration paid far less attention to these threats than President Clinton’s did. Her task seemed to become even more difficult on Sunday, when the leaders of the commission said that it was likely to conclude that the Sept. 11 attacks were preventable.
Yes it’s “Damage Control” time once again. And the Media Whores have their collective asses in a sling every but as much as Condi — the Norma Shearer of BushCo.
Senior White House aides concede that Mr. Bush has a huge amount riding on how Ms. Rice does. “She’s the one who can make our most forceful case,” one close colleague of Ms. Rice said this weekend. “They don’t call her the Warrior Princess for nothing,” a reference to the moniker her staff gave her after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Can’t you just see her in a metal breastplate? And who’s Beltway Xena’s little “camp follower”? Gwen Iffil?
But a review of the record, from testimony and interviews, suggests that Ms. Rice faces a daunting challenge because her own focus until Sept. 11 was usually fixed on matters other than terrorism, for reasons that had to do with her own background, her management style and the unusually close, personal nature of her relationship with Mr. Bush.
Get all that?
“her own background”
“Missile Shield” manufacture?
“her management style”
“the unusually close, personal nature of her relationship with Mr. Bush”
The “Stockholm Syndrome”?
Nope, that’s piss-poor folks. She fucked up because they wanted her to.
It’s always easier to let the House Niggers take the heat.
Coit Blacker, a longtime friend and colleague of Ms. Rice at Stanford who is now director of that university’s Institute for International Studies, said any blind spots she had upon taking office in January 2001 might have been rooted in the fact that she emerged from a generation of scholars trained to focus on great-power politics, with terrorism seen as a troubling but subordinate element.
“It wasn’t until after Sept. 11 that most of us realized that for the first time in human history,” Mr. Blacker said, “a nonstate actor, a group of religious extremists at the very bottom of the international system, had the capability to inflict devastating damage on the very pinnacle of the international system.”
Well that’s not what the record shows at all and you don’t have go to Stanford to know it. A reasonably intelligent individual capable of essaying a bare minimum of research will be suee to find that the rise mid-eastern terror cells was one of the most important stories of the 90’s.
Ms. Rice, who is 49, is widely recognized as one of the most poised and effective public advocates of the administration, and she won praise from Democrats and Republicans for her private testimony before the commission.
ie. She’s a smooth PR flack.
Even so, as she prepares for her public testimony this week, friends have been warning her that her personal style — which combines fierce loyalty to the president with the abiding self-confidence of a woman who ascended to powerful jobs, including the No. 2 post at Stanford, at a young age — leaves her prone to two potential missteps.
A yes — a woman in a “Man’s Job.” And with all that “fierce loyalty” too.
Feminism is such a bitch.
One would be to reveal the depth of her anger toward Mr. Clarke, who she believes she protected against those who wanted to oust him because of his closeness to the Clinton White House. Directly contradicting him, her colleagues fear, would exacerbate the politically polarizing debate that has captivated Washington for more than two weeks.
And it would further underscore the fact that Condi pointedly ignored Clarke’s warnings — as BushCo was prone to do about anything related to the Clinton White House.
The other possible minefield, they said, would be to give no ground, to offer no room for self-doubt that the issue was handled with the right urgency and the right approach.
But that’s been Standard Operational BushCo Procedure for some time. Even to the point of Dick Cheney mouthing inanities about Weapons of Mass Destrution long after they were shown to be mythical.
“Her attention was surely engaged,” said another former senior official, also an admirer, who dealt with her every day on these issues before and after Sept. 11. “Did she register how serious the threat was to the United States of America? I don’t know; that’s what she’ll have to answer.”
My but that “I don’t know” is striking — coming as it does from “an admirer.”
Still, the reality is that Ms. Rice has virtually no public utterances about Al Qaeda to point to as evidence that she was as engaged in the issue as she was in Mr. Bush’s other foreign policy agendas.
In February 2001, George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, told Congress that terrorism was the top threat facing the United States.
Even four months later, as intelligence warnings about possible attacks by Al Qaeda began to surge, a June 2001 address that Dr. Rice delivered to Council on Foreign Relations on “Foreign Policy Priorities and Challenges of the Administration” made no mention of terrorism.
The Non-Smoking Gun in this whole affair.
And the next month, speaking with a correspondent over a cup of coffee under an outdoor cafe umbrella during Mr. Bush’s first major summit of world leaders in Genoa, Italy — a meeting many feared could become a Qaeda target — she expressed concern about the frenzy of terror reports, but indicated her biggest worry was a strike in the Mideast.
Which was was the umbrella tilted? Does Condi like cream in her coffee or does she take it black?
These are vital question in the “Mainstream.”
By the time she reached Genoa, Ms. Rice had already changed the nature of the National Security Council. She cut the staff by roughly 10 percent, though accurate numbers are elusive because the White House office is often staffed by employees on the payroll at the State Department, the C.I.A. or other agencies.
“Elusive”! Love it! An actual figure would surely be a sticky wicket.
Her concern, dating back to her days as a young member of the council staff, was that the organization should look for problems that fell through the cracks, and to adjudicate disputes between agencies. But it was the cabinet agencies, she believed, that had to act on policy, whether it was renegotiating the anti-ballistic missile treaty or applying resources to fight terrorists.
Ms. Rice also created a hierarchical, corporate style in which she largely delegated policy development to others. To oversee the creation of a new strategy on counterterrorism, she relied on her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley. For Ms. Rice, in part, that preserved time to concentrate on issues more familiar to her, to tutor Mr. Bush and to translate his instincts and decisions into policy.
Obviously Mr. Haley should start cleaning out his office drawers and refreshing his resume.
Administration officials said that even in the context of fighting terrorism, Ms. Rice was reluctant to budge from other matters that were higher on her agenda. They said that concern about an attack on the United States was usually in the context of the potential for a missile from North Korea or another rogue state, buttressing the case for missile defense.
Her public speeches and interviews tended to focus on more orthodox foreign-policy issues, including relations with China (particularly after an American surveillance plane was forced down there in the early weeks of the administration); the new relationship with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader; and the threat posed by Iraq and Iran, all of which she had emphasized in a lengthy essay in the January 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs. That essay became the blueprint for Bush’s presidential campaign, in which he never mentioned Osama bin Laden or the Qaeda network.
Aha! Finally an admission from the Whore Press that really counts! She never mentioned either of them !
Indeed, Ms. Rice’s biggest vulnerability may have been that when she came to Washington in 2001, she was determined to quickly tackle three tasks that had little to do with terrorism: refocusing the nation’s diplomacy on big-power politics, chiefly Russia and China; fulfilling Mr. Bush’s pledge of a missile-defense system; and steamlining the security council, getting it out of what she called “operational matters.”
Her background, as she acknowledged, was as “a Europeanist.” And when she briefly dropped her self-confident tone, Ms. Rice, then a professor and former provost at Stanford, said in an interview in June 2000 that as a campaign adviser to Mr. Bush, she found herself “pressed to understand parts of the world that have not been part of my scope.”
“Lawdy Miz Scarlett! I don’ know ‘nothin’ ’bout Islamic Fundamentalism!”
Among those relatively unfamiliar issues was the rise of radical Islamic movements in the Mideast and South Asia. Ms. Rice has said “we did everything we knew how to do” to combat terrorism in the months before the attack.
Ms. Rice openly concedes that her world view, and her priorities, have greatly changed since Sept. 11. The N.S.C. is now larger and more operational than ever, particularly since Ms. Rice, unhappy with the way the Defense and State Departments were running occupied Iraq, pulled the issue back into the White House under a new organization that reports directly to her.
And as she, by her own admission, knows so little, how would that have helped?
A former senior administration official who has worked closely with Ms. Rice over the years painted this retrospective portrait of her as she took office in 2001: “She’s a quick study, she’s very smart, she has an orderly mind, and she has great self-confidence. On the other hand, she suffers in that she doesn’t have a really broad background, especially in the history of different areas. So she’s good on Russia, pretty good on Europe, but it drops off pretty sharply from there.”
It’s the old under-achiever’s battle cry: “Nobody told me this was going to be on the final!”
As she moved into her corner office in the West Wing of the White House, the need to retain expertise on issues related to terrorism was part of the reason she asked Mr. Clarke, President Clinton’s counterterrorism chief on the N.S.C. staff, to stay on in that post. Even so, Mr. Clarke recalls, she also suggested at their first meeting that some of his day-to-day duties should be moved back to government departments, where she thought they belonged.
To what extent any failures in the Bush White House’s response to terrorism should be laid at Ms. Rice’s feet is a matter of some debate. Her insistence that the National Security Council play less of an operational role than in the past was one reason for the prickly relationship between her and Mr. Clarke, who as the senior director for counterterrorism had less access to high-level officials under Mr. Bush than he did under President Clinton.
Junior in age and experience to advisers like Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state, and Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, Ms. Rice was also seen by some aides as more deferential than some of her predecessors. But as a friend, confidante and sometime workout partner as well as adviser to the president, Ms. Rice enjoyed by far the closest personal ties with Mr. Bush of any foreign-policy adviser.
“Workout partner”? Well feel the burn, Condi!
“She’s established a very good relationship with the president, and that is critical,” said Brent Scowcroft, who as national security adviser under President Bush’s father hired Ms. Rice onto the security council staff as an expert on the Soviet Union. “If you don’t have that relationship, you’re nowhere.”
And if you do. . .you’re also nowhere.
She told her staff in the opening days of the administration that she had an open door and asked for memorandums describing the most urgent problems facing them. Mr. Clarke responded with a lengthy e-mail message on Jan. 25 that he describes as presenting a full plan to combat Al Qaeda. Ms. Rice viewed it differently. “It was a hodgepodge of ideas about how to make life miserable for Osama bin Laden,” said an official who has reviewed the still-classified memorandum.
Short-sheet his bed, no doubt.
The turning over of such issues to Mr. Hadley, Ms. Rice’s alter ego in the N.S.C., has been a common practice in the White House. Precisely organized and deeply connected to the neoconservative wing of the administration, Mr. Hadley is a quiet bureaucratic operator who has said he knows it is his place to operate behind the scenes. He once joked that a middle-aged lawyer “shouldn’t expect to have Condi’s star power.”
Well be sure to return Miss Channing’s costume to the Wardrobe Mistress, Eve. They’re very picky about that as I’m sure Birdie told you.
Mr. Clarke clearly chafed under the new management style. In the Clinton White House he dealt often with the “principals,” the secretary of defense and the secretary of state, among others; in the Bush White House he was expected to deal with Mr. Hadley and Ms. Rice. He frequently skipped their morning meeting of senior directors of the N.S.C. He said he was too busy.
“Condi saw it as a dis,” said one of her closest aides.
Woo! Girlfriend’s gettin’ all street with us all of a sudden! Call Ricki Lake.
She sent him two stiff e-mail messages. “Look, I know how to manage people,” Ms. Rice told reporters last month, “and I asked him to come once. We continued to have a problem. I asked him to come twice. We didn’t have a problem after that.”
But you’ve sure as hell got a problem now, Condi. And it’s going to be ever so entertaining to watch you try and talk your way out of it.