The XX Factor

Condoleezza Rice on George W. Bush’s “Curious Mind”

This weekend’s  New York Times Magazine will feature an interview with Condoleeza Rice in which the interviewer managed to avoid asking the former secretary of state about her reasons for being single , her penchant for footbal l, or her passion for the piano . Instead, Andrew Goldman grills Condi on her time serving under President Bush. It’s a remarkably unbending interview. Rice refuses to admit the utility of pondering mistakes (“it’s just not a very fruitful exercise,” and staunchly defends President Bush’s “curious mind.” (Her evidence? The dozen-odd biographies of Lincoln he read while in office … which doesn’t  strike me as revealing a mind seeking new vistas so much as one running on a single track.)

Most telling, though, is the closing question, in which Rice discusses the way she copes with public criticism: “If you’re a public figure, there are always going to be a few people who don’t like what you did. I’m just really glad I don’t have to listen to them.”  Part of me wants to applaud a strong spine, but there is a certain troubling quality to her relief at being allowed to ignore criticism that didn’t come from her bosses.  Yet as Goldman points out, there’s some evidence she avoided that kind of criticism, too:  “In his memoir, Donald Rumsfeld said …  that you almost never wanted to take dissenting views to the president.” Rice counters that disagreements occured in “private” meetings, but either way,  the evidence suggests she was willing to bend that strong spine backwards for Bush and co.

Photograph by Tom Pennington courtesy Getty Images.