April 4, 2006


On the Road with Condi and Jack (Glenn Kessler, 4/04/06, Washington Post)

Combining hard-nosed foreign initiatives with tourism and local politicking, the diplomatic duo has bounced across Europe and the Middle East, personifying the "special relationship" between their countries.

On Thursday, they were in Berlin, jawboning the Russians and Chinese on Iran's nuclear program. Rice took a brief detour to Paris and then ended up that same day in Liverpool, England. On Friday and Saturday, Straw squired her around the former Beatles haunt and the town of Blackburn, which he represents in Parliament. They then flew together on an unannounced trip to Iraq for a dramatic two-day visit here to prod Iraqi politicians into action. On Monday, they ended their journey back in London for dinner with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

They are a bit of an odd couple: an elegantly dressed African American woman who grew up in the segregated South and a plain blue-suit-and-tie Englishman who carries a red wooden box as a briefcase. Rice, 51, is a former academic whose sentences sometimes get tangled in modifiers, caveats and endless clauses; Straw, 59, is an experienced and candid politician whose skillful turns of phrase make good sound bites. Rice has been involved in foreign policy issues since becoming enamored of Russian studies in college; Straw had no experience in foreign policy before becoming a surprise choice as foreign secretary in 2001.

Aides say they genuinely like each other and -- unlike many high-powered figures -- don't seem to get on each other's nerves. Straw is the only foreign minister Rice will regularly pick up the phone and call, rather than having the State Department operations center arrange the conversation. When they flew overnight to Baghdad, Rice gave Straw the bed in her cabin and slept on the floor in the aisle, prompting the Guardian newspaper to quip that Straw had been "embedded." Straw said he thought Rice had another bed on the plane and was mortified the next morning when he discovered she had slept on the floor.

The most recent roadshow stemmed from Rice's belief that time spent overseas helps build personal relationships that can pay off later in diplomacy.

They ought to take the Canadian, Australian and Indian foreign ministers with them next trip.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 4, 2006 10:12 AM

Love that embedded line.

Posted by: RC at April 4, 2006 11:11 AM

whose opening for them ? how much are tickets ?

Posted by: toe at April 4, 2006 2:17 PM
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