The World According to Condi

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On Dick Cheney: Condoleezza Rice's relationship with the former vice president was strained, to say the least. As national security advisor and then secretary of state, Rice and Cheney battled for President George W. Bush's ear. And the fighting hasn't stopped. Cheney's recent book has Rice "tearfully" admitting to him that she was wrong. Rice fires back, noting that Cheney was utterly convinced of the spurious intelligence on the connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, and says that she was "stunned" when it seemed the vice president negotiated behind her back to let Israel prolong the war in Lebanon in 2006. The vice president's staff, she notes, was "very much of one ultra-hawkish mind ... determined to act as a power center of its own."


On Donald Rumsfeld: Rice's relationship with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was full of what she characterizes as animosity. She argues that Rumsfeld resented her role as national security advisor and recounts his infamous "snowflake" memo in which he told her to back off his turf, or else he'd take the matter to the president: "I found the tirade amusing if slightly condescending...."


On Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya: It's been well reported that Qaddafi took a shine to Rice; a entire photo album of pictures of the former secretary was found in the Libyan leader's compound. The late leader of Libya even had a song made for her called Black Flower in the White House and played it along with a videotape of her with various world leaders. "It was weird, but at least it wasn't raunchy," Rice wrote.


On President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan: Rice pulls no punches in her assessment of Sudan's dicator, even questioning whether he might have been on drugs during a meeting: "I loathed him," she wrote.  


On Hosni Mubarak of Egypt: Rice had a strong sense of the pride and vanity of now-deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and she recalled a patronizing lecture from a man she thought looked like an actual pharaoh in which he told her that, in effect, the Egyptian people were happy with "a strong hand" from an authoritarian leader.


On President Nicolas Sarkozy of France: So Rice didn't warm up to Qaddafi, Mubarak, or Bashir -- all to her credit. But there's just something about Paris ... and Rice had a major mutual admiration society going with the French leader. She says they saw "eye to eye on almost everything."


On President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon: Rice was not very keen on Lebanon's badly dressed leader; between his ugly mustard suit and odd-looking fake tan, Rice felt hardly diplomatic, writing "After I shook his hand, I felt like I needed a shower."


On President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and then-President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan: Rice recalls a meeting at the White House with President George W. Bush and the two pugilistic leaders that she compares to a boxing match with Karzai far outmatching his Pakistani neighbor -- the session ending with Bush remarking that the two almost came to blows.


On Colin Powell vs. Donald Rumsfeld: When it came to this notoriously warring couple, Rice had an insider's view. She believed that the distrust between Bush's first-term secretary of state and his secretary of defense made the bureaucracies beneath them almost incapable of making decisions. She also saw that they had very different styles and that Powell, with his more nuanced approach, often lost out with Bush often preferring Rumsfeld's more "black-and-white view of the world," in particular in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.


On then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Rice recounts an unusual gift from the Saudi leader: a black robe and veil worn by Saudi women that he told her he had made just for her. She recalls thinking of the veil as a sign of oppression, though concludes: "But it was so dear, and he meant well."


On then-President Vladimir Putin of Russia: Rice, a specialist on the Soviet military from her days in academia, ended up having a famously frosty relationship with Putin and, especially, his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. She also writes in the book about her skepticism about a famous story Putin told Bush at their first meeting about his supposed religious faith.


On Secretary of Defense Bob Gates: When Bush finally told Rice a few days before the 2006 midterm elections that he had decided to replace Rumsfeld with Bob Gates, she recalls, "I could barely contain my joy."


On then-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq: Rice saw him as one of many less-than-ideal leaders for Iraq after the U.S. invasion, deeming this one more suited to be a professor than a political leader.


On U2 singer and activist Bono: Life as secretary of state wasn't all boring meetings with anonymous pols from around the world. Rice, in particular, came to hold a fondness for celebrity activist Bono, who she dubbed a rare famous person who was actually well-informed and smart on the issues: "He became and remains a really good friend."

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