In Condie Rice, Republicans Have a Superstar

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It's tough to upstage a lovingly prepared video retrospective of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush. But Condoleezza Rice may have done just that Tuesday night, when she took the floor at the GOP convention to tout George W. Bush's heretofore invisible foreign policy prowess. The former Stanford provost (she took a leave of absence to serve as Dubya's unofficial foreign policy adviser) gave a rousing speech, bringing the delegates to their feet and cementing her place in a Bush Cabinet.

It's generally understood that Rice is first in line to become W.'s national security adviser, and tonight's speech showed everyone why. Her fierce, articulate message, namely that the United States' interests abroad and at home would be best served by Bush's sensible leadership, was punctuated with personal Bush anecdotes: She's seen the governor interact with Mexican, Russian and Chinese leaders, and she was pleased with the results. And if anyone can convince the American people that George W. Bush is capable of defending America's place in the world, it's probably Rice. A Republican superstar even before Tuesday's speech, Rice, 45, has precisely the kind of inspiring American success story that has served as a thread through the proceedings in Philadelphia this week.

Growing up in segregated Birmingham, Rice experienced racism firsthand when she was denied access to "whites only" drinking fountains and bus seats. Happily for the GOP, it was just those insults that drove the Rice family into the Republican party. In her convention speech, Rice paid tribute to her father's political legacy: Alabama's good-old-boy Dixiecrats refused to let Mr. Rice vote — but the Republicans helped him register.

Rice has a curriculum vitae that's hard to beat. She received her bachelor's degree at 19, a master's at 20, then went on to earn a doctorate. If her personal accomplishments weren't enough for the GOP crowd, Rice even has a firm foothold in the Bush legacy to heighten her appeal; she served as chief adviser on the Soviet Union to President Bush.

And while Rice's nearly certain appointment would bring a welcome injection of diversity (the magic word here in Philadelphia) to a Bush Cabinet, she'd bring much more: A dose of real-life wisdom to a city where lifelong, silver-spoon politicos all too often descend into a fog of Beltway tunnel vision.

Biography: Condoleezza Rice

Current Position: Senior foreign policy advisor for the Bush campaign. (Rice is on a one year leave of absence from her position as a Hoover Senior fellow and professor of political science at Stanford University.)

Born: Nov. 14, 1954. Birmingham, Ala.

Marital Status: Single

Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Denver, 1974; Master's degree, University of Notre Dame, 1975; Ph.D., University of Denver, 1981.

Special Interests: The politics of East-Central Europe, the former Soviet Union and international security policy.

Career: Professor of political science, Stanford University, 1981-present; Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, 1989-1991; Provost, Stanford, 1993-2000.

Board member: Chevron Corp., Transamerica Corp., the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, University of Notre Dame, International Advisory Council of J.P. Morgan, San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors.

Fast Fact: Rice entered the University of Denver at the age of 15, she graduated with a bachelors degree in political science (cum laude) at the age of 19.

Ironic Fact: Rice’s intellectual mentor and primary influence in developing her ideas on foreign policy was Professor Josef Korbel — Madeleine Albright’s father.