Cooper vs. Condi: NYT Smacks Rice Around

Diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper is clearly no fan of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, judging both by her past reporting and her recent evaluation of Rice's service on Saturday, "As Her Star Wanes, Rice Tries to Reshape Legacy."

"On May 25, Stanford University's student newspaper, The Stanford Daily, devoted the bulk of its front page to the university's former provost, who is on leave while she serves out her term as secretary of state. 'Condi Eyes Return,' read the headline, 'but in What Role?'

"Within hours, the letters to the editor started coming in. 'Condoleezza Rice serves an administration that has trashed the basic values of academia: reason, science, expertise, and honesty. Stanford should not welcome her back,' wrote Don Ornstein, identified by the newspaper as an emeritus professor of mathematics in a letter published May 31.

"Online comments on the newspaper's Web site were even harsher, a veritable stream of vitriol. One of the milder posts came from Jon Wu, who did not give an affiliation: 'Please go away, Rice. We don't want someone who is responsible for the slaughter of an entire nation teaching at our school.'"

(Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters dug into the comments himself and found some more supportive of Rice's return to campus.)


"There was a time when, perhaps more than Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice seemed to have the best shot at becoming the first woman or the first African-American to be president. But that was before she sounded public alarms based on faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, telling CNN, 'We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.' It was before a former top Bush administration colleague, David Kay, charged with finding unconventional weapons after the Iraq invasion, referred to Ms. Rice in Bob Woodward's 'State of Denial' as 'probably the worst national security adviser since the office was created.'

"And it was before furious Lebanese hung a huge banner depicting Ms. Rice's face, with blood dripping from her lips, from a bridge in central Beirut."

What effect does a nutty protest in Beirut have to do with Rice's U.S. presidential prospects?

"In Washington and around the world, many now believe that Ms. Rice, after two and a half years on the job, is a far better secretary of state than she was national security adviser. As President Bush's top diplomat, she has lowered tensions somewhat between America and its allies, after four years of a go-it-alone diplomacy that had chilled trans-Atlantic relations. Despite criticism from conservatives within the administration, she has allowed her North Korea aide, Christopher R. Hill, enough space to negotiate a truce that led to the North's shutdown of its main nuclear reactor in July."

The only positives about Rice that Cooper could see came from the occasions when Rice stood up to Dick Cheney's "hawks."

"She has cobbled together a six-nation diplomatic effort to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions which, although unsuccessful so far, has managed for more than a year to hold together on a series of United Nations sanctions against Iran. And perhaps most important, she has used those sanctions, along with tough rhetoric, to tamp down the national-security hawks in Vice President Dick Cheney's office who have argued for greater consideration of military strikes against Iran.

"But none of that has been enough to erase the view that as national security adviser she largely served as a rubber stamp for a series of foreign policy blunders, during a period that critics say will ultimately weigh most heavily on her legacy."