WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is getting mostly high marks from European leaders after a trip there viewed by some observers as a test of her ability to convince allies that the United States remains committed to the human rights of terrorism detainees.
At the White House on Thursday, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel declared Rice's European charm offensive on the issue of torture a success.
"I'm quite happy that Condoleezza Rice went to Europe. She took the heat. She stood there," Schuessel said.
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In Brussels, Belgium, the head of NATO praised Rice for having "cleared the air."
Even the Dutch foreign minister, who recently chided Rice to "stop hiding" on the torture issue said Thursday that she gave him "clear answers" and "covered ... all fields."
Based on these and other remarks, many news organizations depicted Rice's trip as a diplomatic triumph. But many others did not.
ABC News' Web site linked readers to an Associated Press article entitled "Allies Welcome Rice's Comments on Torture," but deleted the favorable headline from the article itself.
On the trip's third day, The New York Times declared in an editorial that Rice "had a hard time sounding credible."
That followed The Washington Post's editorial of a day earlier, which derided Rice's arguments as "legalistic jujitsu and morally obtuse double talk."
By trip's end, however, the Post had come around with a news headline admitting: "Rice Quiets Concerns Over Detainee Treatment."
If most observers agree Rice made her case despite the skepticism of some major media outlets in the United States, the question then becomes: How did she do it?
"She discussed [torture] three times, for instance, with the foreign minister of Germany," Schuessel explained.
In public, Rice discussed the issue in seven different forums. According to a FOX News tally, she made 64 separate denials that the United States tortures detainees, each one meant to reassure allies about American standards of treatment.
Most striking was her attention to verb tense. Sixty-two out of 64 times, Rice used either the present tense or a variation on a future tense.
The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture," she said upon her departure on Monday.
"We intend to live up to our international obligations," she said in Brussels on Thursday.
Only twice did Rice use the past tense and thereby address past conduct by U.S. personnel. Speaking at Andrews Air Force Base before leaving for Europe, Rice said the United States has respected other nations' sovereignty and has not knowingly transported detainees to be tortured.
The secretary's caution with words led some in the media to accuse her of relying on "loopholes." One political cartoonist depicted her bathing in a snow shower of her own asterisks.
Click into the video tab near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' James Rosen.