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Biographers Examine Rice’s Role in New Mideast Talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a key negotiator in Tuesday's Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md. Three biographers discuss her role in U.S.-Middle East relations and her tenure as the nation's top diplomat.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, a most important week in the life and career of Condoleezza Rice. Judy Woodruff has our story.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It was President Bush who presided over the Middle East talks this week, but it was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who beforehand orchestrated weeks of intense negotiations to persuade leaders in the region to join the peace process.

    During Tuesday's conference, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a point of singling out the U.S. secretary of state for her efforts.

  • MAHMOUD ABBAS, President, Palestinian Authority (through translator):

    I must also pay tribute to the role played by Dr. Condoleezza Rice and her aides, for, without her relentless resolve and determination and her vision vis-a-vis all aspects of conflict in our region, we would not have been convening here.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rice received similar compliments from Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

    Over the past year, Secretary Rice has made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority and has traveled to the region eight times. Prior to the conference, Rice repeatedly dismissed criticism that it would be a public relations move.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: We, frankly, have better things to do than invite people to Annapolis for a photo-op.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    After Tuesday's meetings, she added…

  • CONDOLEEZZA RICE:

    Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a national interest of the United States, and we now have a real opportunity to make progress.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Secretary Rice also repeated that she and President Bush have pledged the administration's unwavering support in the drive for peace.

    For more on the woman and her biggest moment yet in the international spotlight, we talk to three journalists who have written biographies on the secretary of state this year.

    Marcus Mabry is the author of "Twice as Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path to Power." He's an editor at the New York Times and a former correspondent for Newsweek.

    Glenn Kessler is the author of the "The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy." He's a diplomatic correspondent for the Washington Post.

    And Elisabeth Bumiller is the author of "Condoleezza Rice: An American Life," due out next month. She's a reporter for the New York Times.

    This has to be a woman with a very interesting life to have all three of you writing about her this year. We are going to focus on the Middle East peace process.

    And, Elisabeth Bumiller, to you first. What was her role in making this conference happen?

    ELISABETH BUMILLER, Author, "Condoleezza Rice: An American Life": Her role was really pushing the president, her chief client here. And it was also getting the energy together.

    A year ago, she looked around and realized that the time was running out. She collected a lot of documents from the State Department of previous peace efforts in the Middle East, saw what had gone wrong, met with Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister of Israel, and pushed the president in this direction, and also realized that the legacy at that moment was the war in Iraq, and she and the president needed another legacy, something more positive.