Published September 18, 2003
"If anyone here is a spy, please raise your hand."--Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, when it was discovered that lax security left the State Department crawling with spies posing as journalists.
"I must say the Foreign Minister was very nice....We had not spoken to each other. He did tell me, however, that I looked younger this year."--Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in July 2000, on Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun of North Korea.
"Feeling maternal is a natural instinct. And I actually think the blend [between hard and soft] worked pretty well. I have to say I love being a woman and I use everything I have. So if I was with a foreign minister, I'd use charm when I could, disarm him a little bit with that, and then let him know what I thought."--Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in an interview with Canada's The Globe and Mail in April, 2002.
She has a 512-page autobiography now. She wasn't too modest or creative to title it "Madam Secretary," what her sycophants titled her. And she credits her womanhood for Condoleezza Rice's (search) ascendance.
The book is likely aimed at filling the void of accomplishment of her era, just as the speeches and interviews she gives are, wherein she criticizes abler leaders. In a Time Magazine interview this week, every one of her answers naturally has a criticism of Bush's Iraq policy--despite the fact that Americans still aren't sure what happened in Kosovo. (search) As her old mentor Dean Peter Krogh (search) at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service said when she was in office, one cannot "recall a time when our foreign policy was in less competent hands."
Albright was catapulted to power by a combination of talent for influencing people and a rock-hard determination to not let "the boys win out," as she called it. The latter in particular resonated with women, who habitually credit Albright for having penetrated a man's world amid intimidating obstacles. Unfortunately, women often mistake this kind of ambition in a woman for a virtue, their logic being: "There are enough men in positions of power screwing up the world; it's time to give a woman a chance!"
In April of last year, Albright told Canada's The Globe and Mail that she considers being a woman an advantage in foreign affairs: "I think women are better listeners and we can relate better on a personal basis, which ultimately makes a big difference in high-level, international relations."
While campaigning for Walter Mondale (search) in 1984, she "clung to the hope that hordes of angry female voters would make the decisive difference by casting their votes for the Ferraro-Mondale ticket," as Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs wrote in his 1999 biography of the first woman secretary. "It was the soccer mom (search) theory of American politics 10 years before it became fashionable."
For all the obsessive touting she does of her gender, still unable to get over herself as the first female secretary of state even after flunking the job, this is one Woman who should have aimed lower in life.
Albright has been called "tough" on issues, an "outspoken woman who tells it like it is." Unfortunately, she had a knack for being tough on the wrong issues and a flair for telling it like it isn't. Even after it wasn't. In her time, the woman gave a whole new meaning to the term counter-intelligence.
Albright served as congressional liaison for former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (search), her boss in the Carter White House. As Dobbs describes, while Brzezinski "welcomed her advice on how to deal with Congress, her foreign policy views were of little interest to him or to anyone else....Anyone trying to pick future secretaries of state from the NSC staff would likely have put Madeleine at the bottom of the list...she had no particular area of expertise."
Nor could Brzezinski, recalling her days as a student in his graduate seminar on comparative communism at Columbia University, describe her as a "special" student. "If she stood out," Dobbs writes, "it was because of her East European background" and her father's connection to Brzezinski through the academic circuit. "All of that created more contact than would otherwise have been the case," Brzezinski admitted.
About Albright's unremarkable 413-page dissertation, Dobbs writes: "Her dissertation has little distinction from the thousands of other worthy tomes filed away and forgotten in the stacks of Columbia University. Replete with dozens of pages of footnotes and a lengthy bibliography, it is a model of academic gruntwork, with few flashes of originality or brilliance."
Yet the fanfare for her from the women's movement-- from its panderers in the press, and from the sector of the public that buys into it-- was immediate and long-lasting. It all stands in stark contrast to the comparatively mute reception that the current administration's diverse appointments got. One is left waiting for the Democrats to do their usual fixating on color and gender, and credit the Bush administration at least for appointing to his cabinet a Hispanic, two blacks, three women (one of whom is an Asian that replaced a Hispanic) and an Arab--and to senior officialdom a black woman, a Hispanic and a Jew.
For the most part, the Diversity Party has been dismissive. Because the only diversity that counts is diversity for diversity's sake. Bush's appointments are less interesting because his choices are actually qualified. And if a member of a protected class is actually qualified, he loses his protection.
The Democratic Party's fixation on race and gender explains why black Supreme Court justices can't be conservative, why Hispanic parents should not want their kids to learn English, and why members of both hues should all think alike. It explains how you get Gray Davis supporters shouting "He's a for'ner!" about an immigrant candidate, and how you get the Democratic governor responding that if you can't pronounce the word "California," you shouldn't be governor. It's also how you get the Democratic Party of Minnesota discouraging black Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Alan Paige (search) from running to fill the late Paul Wellstone's (search) Senate seat in last November's elections.
"What did being a woman mean to your term as Secretary of State?" the Time interview asks Albright.
While such questions are not beneath Albright to indulge, they're not relevant. It's the difference between a platform of inclusion and a platform of substance, which is inclusive by happenstance of the country's physical makeup.
That's why when you employ a merit-based system, you get Condoleezza Rice. And when you employ affirmative action (search), you get Madeleine Albright.