MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, CHIEF
DECEMBER 5, 1996
President Clinton has chosen U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright to replace outgoing Secrectary of State, Warren Christopher. If confirmed by the Senate, Ambassador Albright will be the first woman ever to hold the position. A biographical summary is followed by a discussion with two Washington veterans who worked with Ambassador Albright for many years.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Madeleine Albright has spent the last four years as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, where she has been a visible and outspoken diplomat. She called for strong action by the U.N. peacekeepers in Somalia, for example, and within the Clinton administration, she argued forcefully as early as 1993 for punitive NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. She interpreted her mission broadly and traveled far beyond New York, bearing witness at the sight of atrocities in Bosnia and visiting Africa's most troubled countries, including Rwanda and Burundi.
A RealAudio version of of this biographical segment about Madeleine Albright is available.
A RealAudio version and a transcript of the December 5, 1996 discussion about President Clinton's choices for his national security team is available.
A RealAudio version of The President's press conference nominating his national security team is available.
Previous NewsHour Links to Madeleine Albright
July 23, 1996:
The unraveling situation in central Africa is the focus of this Madeleine Albright interview.
February 26, 1996:
Madeleine Albright talks about the Clinton administration's response to the downing of two U.S. civilian aircraft by the Cuban Airforce.
January 30, 1996:
An interview with Madeleine Albright about her trip to Africa.
December 11, 1995:
Madeleine Albright talks about the effort to rebuild Bosnia.
Madeleine Albright's bio.
Previous NewsHour Links to William Cohen
January 16, 1996:
William Cohen discusses his surprise decision not to run again for the U.S. Senate.
November 28, 1995:
William Cohen and a panel of Senators discuss sending troops to Bosnia.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Foreign Affairs and Security Issues.
Her ease in explaining American foreign policy which President Clinton mentioned in his remarks today was honed partly on the NewsHour. In 1987, she served as a NewsHour commentator with Professor William Hyland during the Reagan-Gorbachev summit.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: (1987) I think we are on the verge of having a realistic relationship with the Soviet Union and realistic means understanding that there are major differences. The Russians are not like us. Nor are they 10 feet tall, and, therefore, what this particular summit I hope has opened up. And as Sen. Hart said, we're dealing with a new kind of Russian leader. And we have to understand that. And if American policy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union is going to make any sense at all, it has to be based on a realistic assessment of a new era.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: During the 1988 election, as Michael Dukakis's chief foreign policy adviser, she took part in a NewsHour debate.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The thing that's bothered Gov. Dukakis the most is that we have been responding to Soviet initiatives for the last two years, and, in fact, the INF Treaty and a variety of subjects that have come up, we're always responding to them. It's time for us to drive the agenda of the Soviet.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: She was born into a life of diplomacy. She was the daughter of a Czech diplomat who was forced into exile in America after the 1948 Communist coup in Czechoslovakia. She grew up in Colorado, graduated from Wellesley College, married and later divorced newspaper scion Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, and is the mother of three grown children. She got a Ph.D. from Columbia University in public law and government in 1976.
Her political career began on Capitol Hill as an aide to Sen. Edmund Muskie, and then as congressional liaison for national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in the Carter administration. She was foreign policy adviser to Vice Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro in the 1984 campaign. Later, she taught international relations at Georgetown University. In spite of the demands of protocol in her diplomatic jobs, she has often demonstrated that she can bring a light touch to the travails of diplomacy.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Today at the White House a more subdued Amb. Albright briefly described how she sees her new job.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: To my colleagues in the Department of State, I hope I can communicate even a small measure of the excitement and determination that I feel. Together, with the men and women of our armed forces, the finest military in the world, we have a job to do--to defend American interests, maintain key alliances, forge new friendships, and ensure for the American people a future of steadily increasing prosperity and steadily decreasing danger.
To America's friends and allies abroad, I say that the future depends on our keeping our commitments to each other. We live in an era without power blocks in which old assumptions must be re-examined, institutions modernized, and relationships transformed. If we are to master events, rather than be mastered by them, we must be forward-looking in our thinking and flexible in our tactics. But we need not and must not diverge from the core values of democracy and respect for human dignity that have long guided our nation and made American leadership not only possible but welcome in so many parts of the world.
To members of Congress I offer an open door and open communications. As someone who has worked on Capitol Hill, I understand that the task of defending the expenditure of dollars overseas is not an easy one, especially now, when the Cold War is over and nuclear weapons no longer target our homes. But if American leadership is to continue, we must always make the effort to explain clearly the who, what, when, how, and especially the why's of U.S. foreign policy, and we must commit the resources needed to meet our fair share of obligations and responsibility.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now two Washington veterans who have worked many years with the new Secretary of State. Wendy Sherman was Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs from 1993 to ‘96. She is now president and chief executive officer of the Fannie Mae Foundation. Kirk O'Donnell served as president of the non-profit Center for National Policy, where Amb. Albright was a member of the board of directors and later president, herself. She also--they also worked together on the Dukakis campaign in 1988. Thank you both for being with us. Ms. Sherman, what quality or characteristic would you point to as responsible for Madeleine Albright getting to where she is today?
WENDY SHERMAN, Former State Department Official: I think that as I've said about other people like her who've made it to such a privileged position of being nominated to be Secretary of State she is a great 20-year overnight success. She has worked very hard. She has tremendous experience. As U.N. ambassador, she's now worked with 185 leaders. She has traveled to every continent. So she comes with tremendous experience.
She comes with a strategic vision and understanding of the world as we enter the next century. She is a marvelous teacher, as the President pointed out in his remarks, and really can help the American people understand why foreign policy has anything to do with their day-to-day lives. I think it's a wonderful choice. She's a longtime friend and colleague, and I think she will serve the American people very well.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: As her friend and colleague over these years, is there anything in her--in her sort of character, her personality makeup that you particularly point to?
WENDY SHERMAN: She is a person of enormous integrity and vision, and, in that, she is very much like our current Secretary of State, who has tremendous dignity and integrity, patience, and tenacity, tough when you need to be, generous when you need to be. Diplomacy is a very difficult way to be in the world. And I think her ability to communicate with the American people will be very, very important in these difficult times ahead when the threats to the American people may not be as easily seen or certainly felt when we see bombs go off in the Paris suburbs or in the subway, when we see terrorism in the Middle East.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Kirk O'Donnell, what would you point to? What quality would you choose?
KIRK O'DONNELL, Former President, Center for National Policy: I think that she has a deep and abiding democratic conviction, and I mean that with a small "d," not a partisan conviction. And she really--this reputation for toughness is seen when she takes on dictators in Cuba or Haiti. I think the experience of youth was a profound experience, and clearly, she was born with diplomacy in her genes. But this abiding conviction to democracy is something that she holds very near and dear to her heart.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: She has said, I'm not so much a diplomat as I am a political person. Is that something you've seen?
KIRK O'DONNELL: Well, she certainly as engaged, as have Wendy and I, in many presidential campaigns. She's probably engaged in more of them than Wendy and I have over the years. I think what's interesting is that she has engaged in all these political campaigns since the Muskie campaign, and with these more than 20 years of active participation in presidential politics, that has all made her more friends on both sides of the aisle. In this day where politics seems to make enemies, rather than friends, she's really an anomaly in that sense.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Wendy Sherman, do you have anything to add to that?
WENDY SHERMAN: I completely agree with Kirk. In my work as assistant secretary of state, Amb. Albright was one of those individuals who could talk to both sides of the aisle, was respected by both sides of the aisle, had a wonderful visit to North Carolina with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Helms, and even when there is disagreement with her and her views, there is enormous respect because they know she will be straightforward about her thinking, and she will listen to what Congress has to say, and she understands the job and the responsibility they hold under the Constitution.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: We should say that Sen. Helms said some very nice things about her today, and seemed to support her, her appointment. She some--Ms. Sherman, she sometimes speaks very directly. She--people give--have different terms to describe how she's so forthright. Do you think this will make her life as Secretary of State hard?
WENDY SHERMAN: Oh, quite to the contrary. I think the American people like forthrightness. They want people to put it on the line with them, to tell them in no uncertain terms, and I think that Madeleine's--excuse me--Amb. Albright's ability to do that gives them a sense of confidence that she can speak to them and help all of us understand why the foreign policy interests of the United States of America are important to people's everyday life.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think she's likely to get herself in trouble because she's so forthright?
KIRK O'DONNELL: Well, she hasn't so far, and there's certainly plenty of opportunity to do so at the U.N.. I think it was--Sen. Moynihan said it was a very dangerous place, and I think she's handled herself very deftly in terms of her comments, and I think it reflects the fact that she's not only a good communicator, but she is a--has a tremendous amount of experience in the rough and tumble road really of foreign policy.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You really see her as somebody who's very savvy about the ways of Washington and the world, right?
KIRK O'DONNELL: I do, and I think a lot of other people do as well, including, I think, the President. And that's probably one of the reasons that he picked her.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Sherman, let me ask the question to you that the President was asked today. Did she get this job because she's a woman?
WENDY SHERMAN: She got this job, I believe, for the very reason the President said, because of her experience, the capability she brings to the job, her vision for where we need to go in our foreign policy, her support of the President, but there is no question as one of your journalistic colleagues, Tom Oliphant said, being a woman is the icing on the cake.
It is a bonus on top of getting an extraordinary nominee to be our next secretary of state who really can carry on the tradition of so many marvelous secretaries of state, including our current one. He can make history as well, and that is of enormous importance not only to the President's mother, who's looking down, but to my daughter, to Kirk's daughter, to his son, to all the kids who know that you really can make all kinds of choices in this world about what to do with your life and that opportunity abounds.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think it helped her get the job because she's a woman?
KIRK O'DONNELL: I think that I would agree with the icing on the cake. I think that's a terrific view of it, but I do think that her experience and the fact that in an age of rapid communications in the foreign policy world, her ability to articulate U.S. positions was probably a critical element in that. And I don't think that turned on whether she was a woman or not.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. O'Donnell, some have said that she doesn't have a strategic view, that she's not think ing long-term enough. In your experience with her at the National Policy Council, what did you find on that?
KIRK O'DONNELL: Well, what I found and one specific would be that when she took over the Center for National Policy for me, she pursued an initiative in Cambodia, which at the time no one was paying a lot of attention to in terms of seeking peace in a political settlement in Cambodia. You had to have vision and commitment to do that in 1989, and along with Sen. Muskie, the chairman of the Center for National Policy, they pursued that initiative with great success.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Sherman, what about that? You mentioned before that you thought she did have this--the ability to think--strategically to look long-term.
WENDY SHERMAN: I absolutely believe so. I think people need to remember that she has been our ambassador to the United Nations. She sits behind a sign that says the United States of America, and her job is to represent the United States of America and to have her policy discussions in private with the President, with the Secretary of State, and the rest of the foreign policy team. That does not mean she does not have her own views, her own strategic vision, which she has argued, as you mentioned in your introduction, quite forcefully inside of the administration, and I think people will see as she begins the confirmation process what her views are.
When I think about one piece of legislation that we worked on--HR-7, which was in part about the reform of the United Nations, about how we use our military forces, where we're headed, she really had quite a conceptual notion of where we had to head, what kind of compromises and agreements could be made with the United States Congress, what should happen at the U.N., that that would take time, but what were the steps leading to the kind of reform that we all would ultimately like to see, so that the financial support for the United Nations, an institution which this country helped to found, the United States helped to found, as the President pointed out, would continue long into the next century.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, Wendy Sherman and Kirk O'Donnell, thanks for being with us.
WENDY SHERMAN: Thank you.