A reader's guide to Condoleezza Rice: An American Life.

How to read juicy books.
Dec. 17 2007 3:32 PM

The Condensed Condoleezza Rice

Slatereads the new Condi biography so you don't have to.

(Continued from Page 1)

Condi as Young Republican? 

Condi wasn't always a committed ideologue: Judging from Bumiller's account, she came around to "compassionate conservatism" and realpolitik foreign relations slowly. 

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Page 68: Condi voted in her first presidential election in 1976. She was a registered Democrat, and she cast her ballot for Jimmy Carter. She told Bumiller: "I had this narrative about reconciliation of North and South; he was going to be the first Southern president."

Page 75: Jonathan Adelman, one of Rice's advisers at Denver, told Bumiller about his first one-on-one meeting with Condi: "She sat up straight in the chair, she kind of drew herself up, as her mother must have taught her, stared straight at you, and she said, 'I'm going to be a U.S. congressman—and maybe a U.S. senator.' … Then she proceeded to elaborate a plan on how she was going to do it!" But was she a Republican or a Democrat? Adelman said that "she didn't make a big deal out of what party she was going to run on." 

Rummy vs. Condi 

Page 204: How Condi really feels about the former secretary of defense: "Don is a bit of a curmudgeon, all right? … And he can be kind of irascible and short and I'd known Don for years, and that's just Don. It wasn't just Don in the context of my being national security adviser, it's just who Don is. And so I pushed back, and you know, he'd push back and I'd push back." 

Page 178: How Rummy really felt about Condi: According to an unnamed administration official, he would read while Condi spoke at meetings. And Andrew Card, former White House chief of staff, described the one-time secretary of defense as "a little bit sexist" in his dealings with Condi.

Pages 203-204: Rumsfeld withheld Iraq planning information from Condi, so she dispatched three spies: Frank Miller (one-time director of the NSC's Executive Steering Group), Marine Col. Tom Greenwood, and Kori Schake (the NSC's director of defense strategy) to collect intel. Miller said to Bumiller, "We were bringing her vast amounts of information." 

Condi in the Real World: 9/11 and Iraq 

Page 143: Richard Clarke, the pre-9/11 counterterrorism czar, briefed Condi before she assumed her position as national security adviser. She knew shockingly little: "She had heard about bin Laden, but she thought of bin Laden as a guy with a few camp followers. When I said 'Al Qaeda,' she said, 'Stop, what's that?' When I said it was an organization of tens of thousands of followers and millions of dollars in scores of countries, she said she didn't know that."

Page 209: On the first day of the Iraq war, the CIA thought Saddam was hiding out at the Dora Farms complex (southeast of Baghdad) in a bunker. The White House, hoping to "decapitate the Iraqi government in a single air strike," dispatched a couple of F-117 jets to bomb the hell out of the place. But as it turned out, Saddam wasn't at Dora Farms, and there was no bunker. Condi described the situation for Bumiller: "[I]t just seemed like a totally bizarre scene. Because here we are in the Oval Office, this information is literally coming in moment by moment, and people are drawing things on pieces of paper, it must be here, and poor Dick Myers [a war council insider] is running down the hallway trying to get the right coordinates to go after this thing [the bunker], and you know, I thought it was right to take the shot, but there was a … sense of this isn't any way to run a railroad."

Page 213: The day an American tank topped the 20-foot statue of Saddam in Baghdad, Condi had tears in her eyes, and she canceled a scheduled briefing with Jeff Kojac, a Marine officer. Why? Kojac says she "thought the war was over. … It was incredibly unsettling."

Juliet Lapidos is a former Slate associate editor.

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