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Bush names hawkish Rice top US diplomat
Updated: 2004-11-17 08:49

US President Bush on Tuesday picked National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who once tutored him on global affairs, to be his top diplomat, saying her foreign-policy experience and struggle against racism uniquely qualified her to be America's "face to the world" as secretary of state.

"In Dr. Rice, the world will see the strength, the grace and the decency of our country," Bush said.

Rice will face major challenges across the foreign policy spectrum, trying to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians, foster democracy in Iraq and persuade North Korea and Iran to step back from suspected nuclear-weapons programs. She is considered more of a hard-liner than Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was out of step with more hawkish members of Bush's national security team.

In a Roosevelt Room announcement, Bush made plain that terrorism and the Middle East conflict topped his list of foreign-policy priorities. Rice's eyes welled with tears as the president cited her "deep, abiding belief in the value and power of liberty, because she has seen freedom denied and freedom reborn."

Bush also chose longtime domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings to replace Rod Paige as education secretary, administration officials said. Spellings helped shape Bush's school agenda when he was Texas governor and again when he assumed the presidency.

Rice, who would be the first black woman to serve as secretary of state, was somewhat sheltered as a youngster in Alabama from the racial conflicts and segregation of the South. Her school teacher parents guided her into ballet, piano and French studies; her mother bought all her Girl Scout cookies so she wouldn't have to go door-to-door. But when she was 9, a bomb exploded at a Baptist church a few miles away, killing four black girls, one of them a schoolmate.

"As a girl in the segregated South, Dr. Rice saw the promise of America violated by racial discrimination and by the violence that comes from hate," Bush said. "But she was taught by her mother, Angelina, and her father, the Rev. John Rice, that human dignity is the gift of God and that the ideals of America would overcome oppression."

Rice was careful to say nothing about how she would oversee the State Department, its nearly 30,000 employees and its 265 posts around the world.

In a statement read from a prepared text, she confined her remarks to heaping praise on Bush and Powell.

"It is humbling to imagine succeeding my dear friend and mentor, Colin Powell. He is one of the finest public servants our nation has ever produced," Rice said.

Her cautious remarks reflected the potential minefield she faces in Senate confirmation hearings, likely to come the second week of December.

"I think she'll get hard questioning. That's inevitable," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority whip. But McConnell and newly elected Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada predicted Rice would win approval.

Rice should "be confirmed fairly easily unless there's something I don't know," Reid said.

Sitting silently in the first row at Bush's announcement was the president's pick to succeed Rice as national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, who served with Rice for four years.

Asked whether his family knew long hours were in store for him, Hadley quipped: "What's different?"

But Bush elicited a smile from Hadley when he said: "Steve is a man of wisdom and good judgment."

"He has earned my trust, and I look forward to his continued vital service on my national security team," Bush said.

National Security Council officials said they expected no change in the organization's direction, but a lower profile for Hadley.

Whereas Rice has granted regular interviews to promote the administration's foreign policy, Hadley is more media-shy.

Aides describe Hadley as a multitasker and seasoned Washington insider with a good sense of humor, even when the news is bad.

Bush's Cabinet has been exceptionally stable, with only four departures in the nearly four years before the election.

But Powell's resignation put Bush on a course to have roughly the average turnover after re-election.

In all, six Cabinet officers have announced their departures, and more are expected.

Presidents Clinton and Reagan had seven Cabinet seats change hands after they won new terms, President Nixon nine, Presidents Truman and Johnson four each.

Administration officials say Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson may be next to go. Officials close to Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge say he is ready to return to private life, but may be willing to stay for a few months; Ridge and Bush are expected to talk soon.

Another member of Bush's Cabinet, budget chief Josh Bolten, is expected to stay.

Dan Bartlett, Bush's communications director, is likely to assume an expanded portfolio, taking on a "presidential counselor" or "deputy chief of staff" title, several administration officials said.

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