Condoleezza Rice, a minister’s daughter who rose to a top position at the White House under a deeply religious George W. Bush, is a rare national security advisor in one key respect: She prays often with her president.
Rice and Bush share a love of football too. And since arriving at the White House four years ago, she has frequently traveled to the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, for weekends.
“I can’t think of anyone in that job who has been as close to the president personally as she is,” said James Thomson, president of the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica-based think tank. “She is like a member of the family.”
Rice also shares Bush’s view of the world. She was a prominent member of the White House foreign affairs team under Bush’s father, and she tutored the current president in world affairs during the 2000 campaign.
As a Bush loyalist who could get the job of secretary of State as early as today, Rice is unlikely to stake out positions at odds with the administration, and is expected to steer the nation on a more conservative course in world affairs, diplomats and foreign affairs specialists say.
With the resignation of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Rice is expected to preside over a second-term foreign policy team that speaks to the world with a more unified voice -- but that is less willing to seek compromise to win support.
“Secretary Powell’s departure means that the strongest voice in the Bush Cabinet for a traditional Republican internationalism has departed,” said James Lindsay, director of studies at the private Council on Foreign Relations.
During his tenure, Powell frequently challenged Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on key foreign policy issues, although he also voiced strong support for the Iraq war. It was Powellwho convinced Bush to take the administration’s Iraq argument to the United Nations in the fall of 2002, over the objection of Cheney and other hardliners.
Even if so inclined, analysts suggested, Rice would not have the political clout to take Cheney or Rumsfeld on the way Powell did.
“Condi Rice is no counterweight to Rumsfeld,” said Joseph Cirincione, an arms control specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
In Europe, news of Powell’s departure was met with a combination of dismay and concern about what would follow as Bush reshapes his foreign policy team.
“Without being disloyal to the president, [Powell] brought into the debate the understanding that there was a world outside whose interest had to be taken into account,” said Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “He was willing to listen. We will miss the man.”
Many conservatives believe Powell’s resignation and Rice’s ascendancy signal that Bush intends to move ahead more forcefully on his foreign policy direction.
“The key thing is, it shows you that the president is bound and determined to be aggressive in the second administration carrying out his policies,” said Gary Schmitt, executive director of Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative think tank that was an early advocate of the Iraq war.
Some insiders believe one of Rice’s missions at the State Department will be to cleanse the senior ranks of those who have been unenthusiastic about pushing the president’s aggressive foreign policies.
Prominent State Department hardliners, such as John R. Bolton, undersecretary of State for arms control, are expected to rise under Rice’s stewardship. Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, a close Powell ally, is expected to depart.
Rice’s views on foreign policy have changed markedly since Bush’s presidency.
When she was then-Gov. George W. Bush’s foreign policy advisor, she took a so-called realist view of America’s role, arguing that the United States should accept other nations as it found them -- and avoid overly ambitious crusades to reform nations with different histories and cultures.
But Rice, 50, has moved closer to the views generally considered part of neoconservative thinking.
She believes that the United States should move boldly on the world stage and seek to reshape other countries according to democratic principles, using military force if necessary.
She has become the chief spokesperson for Bush’s view that the Middle East should be remolded along democratic, Western-oriented lines.
She has called for a “generational commitment” to change the region.
Her views were reshaped by the Sept. 11 attacks, analysts said. “Her thinking has evolved as the president’s evolved,” Schmitt said.
Despite this, during the last four years Rice has generally been able to avoid becoming closely identified with either Powell’s more moderate views or those of the hawkish Cheney and Rumsfeld.
As national security advisor, she has sought to mediate between the two sides. Some officials have complained that she was too passive, and thus allowed the more assertive hawks to carry the day. But for the most part, she has escaped blame.
Rice grew up in Birmingham, Ala., the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.
A skilled classical pianist, Rice changed her plans for a career in music when she studied under Joseph Korbel, a professor and foreign policy expert and father of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Although Rice had been rumored for months to be a candidate for secretary of State, some of her friends said she might prefer the job of Defense secretary.
Rice’s hallmarks have been discretion, loyalty and “message discipline.”
She has kept a tight rein on public statements by White House officials, contributing to the administration’s reputation for a singular secrecy.
Schmitt predicted that in the second term, the White House would install high-level State Department officials who were more eager to carry out the White House’s foreign policy views.
“There were bureaus that really dragged their feet,” Schmitt said. “That’s going to change.”
Times staff writers Maggie Farley in New York and Sonni Efron in Washington contributed to this report.