I've been working this week on a profile of Condoleezza Rice for Sunday's 60 Minutes.
This is a woman who is "scary smart" – so intelligent, it's scary. She seems to have a photographic memory. She can tick off events and dates in a way that made my head spin. She's also an astute, passionate student of history--and history is what is giving her enormous confidence and comfort in the crafting of the Bush Administration's foreign policy.
During our interview, she cited the Civil War, the Cold War, and other dark days in international history to demonstrate that very trying times are often worth the end result.
I think I have a better understanding of her "foreign policy psyche" from hearing about her childhood experiences. She grew up in the heart of the segregated south in Birmingham, Alabama, and literally felt the repercussions of the church bombing in September 1963. Two miles away, she felt her house shake from the blast. Four young girls were killed, including one who had been a playmate of hers. You get the distinct sense that she understands and appreciates the philosophy of terror -- and feels for the unwitting victims of a twisted political agenda that targets the innocent.
Condi Rice is an eternal optimist. She believes that good will triumph over evil, and feels strongly that other countries deserve the same rights that we have. And she believes it's the role of the United States to stand beside them and support them.
In one of our most intense exchanges, she compared people who say that certain countries and peoples were not equipped to handle democracy to those who discounted and dismissed African Americans before the Civil Rights movement fully took hold.
She's much warmer, more "girly" and fun than the disciplined, controlled stateswoman you see on the world stage. She doesn't have a lot of free time, but she preserves Sunday afternoons as "her time." She likes to play tennis, and is learning how to play golf – she says she likes it and is getting good at "reading the greens."
And then there's her music. She loves playing the piano -- it really is "instrumental" in her life. She describes playing music as "transporting" – it's the only time her brain isn't focused on world events, because it requires so much to focus on music. If you take your eye off the notes, you can muck it up.
And Condi Rice doesn't like to muck anything up.