Will Condi go the way of Colin?

MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images Has Condi Rice pulled a Colin Powell? The time has never been more ripe for Rice to score a few victories that could ensure her legacy as a dextrous, agile, and cunning diplomat. But, like Powell before her, Condi isn’t delivering on the fronts that matter most. A partial list of failures includes Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestine, Russia, ...

600416_070723_rice_05.jpg
600416_070723_rice_05.jpg

MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images

Has Condi Rice pulled a Colin Powell?

The time has never been more ripe for Rice to score a few victories that could ensure her legacy as a dextrous, agile, and cunning diplomat. But, like Powell before her, Condi isn't delivering on the fronts that matter most. A partial list of failures includes Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestine, Russia, Venezuela, and, most importantly, Iraq. (The one exception is North Korea. But even there, most of the credit must go to the chief U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill.)

MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images

Has Condi Rice pulled a Colin Powell?

The time has never been more ripe for Rice to score a few victories that could ensure her legacy as a dextrous, agile, and cunning diplomat. But, like Powell before her, Condi isn’t delivering on the fronts that matter most. A partial list of failures includes Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestine, Russia, Venezuela, and, most importantly, Iraq. (The one exception is North Korea. But even there, most of the credit must go to the chief U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill.)

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, as an editorial in the International Herald Tribune points out today. “When Condoleezza Rice took over as secretary of state,” the IHT notes, “the (wishful) thinking was that the Bush administration would finally get into the business of diplomacy.” But her tenure has been marked by a “perplexing refusal to do the tedious but absolutely essential diplomatic prep work.” In many ways, that was Powell’s main weakness, too. Now he spends his days peddling speeches like used cars.

At the moment, the future doesn’t look much brighter for Condi. Consider this recent story told to Stanford University’s Joel Brinkley by Price Floyd, the man who until recently was the State Department’s director of media affairs:

A few months ago, [Condi] decided to write an opinion piece about Lebanon. She enlisted John Chambers, chief executive officer of Cisco Systems as a co-author, and they wrote about public/private partnerships and how they might be of use in rebuilding Lebanon after last summer’s war. No one would publish it.

Think about that. Every one of the major newspapers approached refused to publish an essay by the secretary of state. Price Floyd, who was the State Department’s director of media affairs until recently, recalls that it was sent to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and perhaps other papers before the department finally tried a foreign publication, the Financial Times of London, which also turned it down.

As a last-ditch strategy, the State Department briefly considered translating the article into Arabic and trying a Lebanese paper. But finally they just gave up. “I kept hearing the same thing: ‘There’s no news in this.’ ” Floyd said. The piece, he said, was littered with glowing references to President Bush’s wise leadership. “It read like a campaign document.”

Condi’s waning influence is bad news for many reasons, but it matters most on U.S. policy toward Tehran. Condi’s apparent weakness is reportedly tilting the internal White House debate over Iran’s nuclear ambitions back in Vice President Dick Cheney’s favor. The VP favors military action, or at least the threat of it. The Secretary of State favors a diplomatic approach. Haven’t we been here before?

Barring a breakthrough on Iran or Iraq—and preferably both—in the next year, it’s hard to see how Condi’s legacy will look much different from Colin’s.

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