Home  |   Jihad Watch  |   Horowitz  |   Archive  |   Columnists  |     DHFC  |  Store  |   Contact  |   Links  |   Search Wednesday, January 17, 2018
FrontPageMag Article
Write Comment View Comments Printable Article Email Article
Font:
Make Me a Sandwich, Madeleine Albright By: Julia Gorin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, September 30, 2002


Because the woman belongs behind a deli counter. Not speaking before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and accusing the Bush administration of an "irrational exuberance" for the conflict with Iraq. Or employing psychobabble to accuse the administration of having a "split personality" and "bipolar disorder" on global issues and overseas conflicts, as she did at Tufts University in May.

Asked by journalists to comment, the Bush Administration had better things to do than bother with yesterday’s ham on toast. But I don’t.

Lest anyone think the sandwich request be hyperbolic, let’s recall that the Albanian delegation to 1999’s Kosovo peace talks thought she was the cleaning lady.

For all the obsessive touting she does of her gender, unable to get over herself as the first female secretary of state even after flunking the job, this is one Woman who should have aimed lower in life.

In April, Albright earned her group-think stripes when she told Canada’s The Globe and Mail that she considers being a woman an advantage in the realm of foreign affairs: "I think women are better listeners and we can relate better on a personal basis, which ultimately makes a big difference in high-level, international relations." (Move over, Oprah!)

Even her positions on the issues over the years read like a checklist for the "female perspective." When she was assistant professor at Georgetown University and coming to be known for her no-nonsense one-liners in debates, she criticized the Reagan administration with the following: "Of course Grenada worked. It was the Redskins versus the Little Sisters of the Poor." When an American warship accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988, she accused the administration of "murdering innocent people." And while campaigning for Walter Mondale in 1984, she "clung to the hope that hordes of angry female voters would make the decisive difference by casting their votes for the Ferraro-Mondale ticket," as Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs writes in his 1999 biography of the first woman secretary. "It was the soccer mom theory of American politics ten years before it became fashionable."

Albright has been called "tough" on issues, an "outspoken woman who tells it like it is." Unfortunately, she is generally tough on the wrong issues and has a flair for telling it like it isn’t. Even after it wasn’t.

The piece de resistance—or one of them, at least—came in 1990, when she was vocal in opposing the use of force against Iraq--even after Kuwait had been successfully liberated--arguing that more time should have been given to negotiations and sanctions. But as secretary of state, Albright offered no such alternatives to Yugoslavia, for whose Kosovo problem she displayed "irrational exuberance" in being the earliest and most consistent advocate of using American military might, as she had likewise been with Bosnia. (The same woman last week: "It is not an American trait to want war.") In other words, where military force makes sense, she is against it; where it will cause a quagmire, she is for it. When the enemy is scary, she advocates passivity; when the enemy is not an enemy, she calls for attack. As for the man sitting on trial today for her Kosovo aggression, embarrassing the prosecution more and more with each passing day--to the point that there is virtually no media coverage of what was billed as the biggest trial since Nuremberg--Albright is "confident that the prosecutors will get him."

More recently, she lamented Bush’s extending the "axis of evil" label to Iran, the world’s most active sponsor of terrorism, which she believes "should be dealt with in a more subtle way." Indeed, the woman gives a whole new meaning to the term counter-intelligence.

Of course, issuing such foreign-policy-based criticism risks public recollection of her own, Picasso-like perceptions of the world—which not long ago led to a series of international blunders and failures.

Talking to the press corps on her plane during trips to the Middle East, Albright would make proclamations such as: "We’re going to have a deal no matter what. We’re working 20 hours a day now; we’ll work 24 hours if we have to." Which means that if you’re Yassir Arafat, you hear the desperation and you wait for a better deal. So there was more to the Arab rejection of the generous Clinton/Barak offer than Palestinian bad faith: There was Maddie Albright.

Here is a woman whose college student’s understanding of the outside world managed to give even the sometimes naive Colin Powell an aneurysm when she famously asked, "What’s the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can’t use it?"

Not at Albright.

Ultimately, the queen of cheap morality found what to do with it: defend terrorists against the sovereign state that was struggling to contain them, while telling Americans that we were preventing the conflict from spreading. (The same woman last week: "It is not a sign of sound leadership to understate the risks of war.")

Now that the Kosovo conflict has spread to Macedonia and the rest of Yugoslavia and has solidified terror cell links, one would think she might quiet down and bow out of the fray (as she conveniently did for a time when it first started becoming clear just how far into oblivion "Madeleine’s War" had hurtled the Balkans). Especially since, when she was secretary, her old mentor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service said he could not "recall a time when our foreign policy was in less competent hands."

Indeed, her very appointment to the office shocked Albright’s former bosses and co-workers, who considered her a "process person" rather than a "substance person," according to Dobbs. A paper-pusher, in other words. Silly Bill appointed her the wrong kind of secretary; she was supposed to get Betty Curry’s job.

She was also a people-pusher, according to many, including Anita Jensen, who worked under Albright when she was a legislative aide for Senator Edmund Muskie: Jensen remarked on Albright’s "superior social intelligence," which she describes as "‘knowing what people want from you and factoring that into how you deal with them. Madeleine…has a hyper-ability to understand what other people are about, where they are coming from, what they are likely to need, and where their limits are.’"

Albright’s old boss, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, commended her "people-handling": "She knows how to make people feel good about themselves," he said. This skill came in handy on her long climb up, during which Albright allied herself with, and in some cases made herself indispensable to, winners like Muskie, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter.

For Brzezinski, Albright served as congressional liaison. As Dobbs describes, while he "welcomed her advice on how to deal with Congress, her foreign policy views were of little interest to him or to anyone else….Anyone trying to pick future secretaries of state from the NSC staff would likely have put Madeleine at the bottom of the list…she had no particular area of expertise."

Nor could Brzezinski, recalling her days as a student in his graduate seminar on comparative communism at Columbia University, describe her as a "special" student. "If she stood out," Dobbs writes, "it was because of her East European background" and her father’s connection to Brzezinski through the academic circuit. "All of that created more contact than would otherwise have been the case," Brzezinski said.

Albright’s father was Josef Korbel, former Czech diplomat to Yugoslavia and later a revered professor of foreign affairs at Denver University, where he founded the Graduate School for International Studies. At first, Korbel was reluctant to allow female students into the graduate program, believing their prospects to be limited. But one female changed his mind definitively: Condoleezza Rice. The woman at the forefront of the foreign policy which his daughter today maligns.

Both women credit Korbel with shaping their world views. But while one may have inherited his genes, the other got the brains. Because the student, in an ironic twist of providence, is now charged with clearing a path through the international mire that the daughter helped create.

Albright has said, "A great deal of what I did, I did because I wanted to be like my father," Why, then, has the man’s coffin worn thin from all the turning he’s done watching his progeny invert history’s lessons and misapply its analogies—not the least of which led her to bomb the country that had been Korbel’s "first thought for safety" in his family’s escape from Nazi Europe, where some less fortunate cousins were incinerated.

Calling herself a "child of Munich," the selling out of Czechoslovakia by Britain and France to Germany has been her primary historical reference for any and every political juncture since. In fact, like most interviews with the former secretary, parts of Dobbs’ book read as though he is quoting an exotic cockatoo: Munich. Munich. Munich. Munich! Munich! Munich! Munich! Munich!

Czechoslovakia also served as the backdrop for Albright’s unremarkable 413-page dissertation. Writes Dobbs: "Her dissertation has little distinction from the thousands of other worthy tomes filed away and forgotten in the stacks of Columbia University. Replete with dozens of pages of footnotes and a lengthy bibliography, it is a model of academic gruntwork, with few flashes of originality or brilliance."

Incidentally, Dobbs’ biography meant to be a sympathetic, if honest, portrayal. It goes on to describe how for the oral defense of her thesis Albright "left nothing to chance," lobbying committee members ahead of time. When she found out that Professor Charles Gati was to be on the committee, "she came in and worked me over. She was very friendly, very interested in me."

Additionally, then, it seems Albright left nothing to talent.

"Neither Gati nor his colleagues have specific recollections of her performance in front of the committee," Dobbs continues, "suggesting it was neither outstanding nor dismal."

That’s because Madeleine Albright is the penultimate mediocrity. She is that breed of credential-donning woman whose goal in such Ph.D. exercises is to get through it--get through what one must in order to snag those three all-important letters and that coveted appellation, "Doctor." Only after that point, as the biography attests, was she able to gauge her worth.

Of those who knew her before she was secretary, people were impressed not by Albright’s intellect, but by her ambition, "inquisitiveness" and sheer force of personality. Indeed, Albright attained several of her competitive career posts, including secretary of state, using the same tools that had served her to pass the oral dissertation: a savvy and energetic networking ability which included thrusting herself into the right people’s faces to make sure she was thought of when the time came.

Rather than depth, analytical ability or keen insight, Albright was catapulted to the seat of power by a combination of talent for influencing people and a rock-hard determination to not let "the boys win out," as she called it. The latter in particular resonated with women, who habitually credit Albright for having penetrated a man’s world amid what surely must have been vast and intimidating obstacles. One strain of logic common among the softer sex during Albright’s tenure went: "Well, aren’t there enough men in positions of power screwing up the world? It’s time to give a woman a chance!" Indeed, think of all the obstacles she had to overcome to get to a position where she could destabilize the universe.

Meanwhile, none of her champions, particularly the media elite that made her a celebrity figure, seem willing to put their money where their mouth is for this first female of state. Bidding last year for Albright’s memoirs proceeded at such an unenthusiastic pace--finally topping out at $995,000, for all rights, from Tina Brown--that Albright herself halted the bidding to avoid further embarrassment. It may not sound like chump change, but in context it seems to be: St. Martins Press and Harper Collins stepped out early on; Doubleday bowed out when the price reached $975,000; Scribner wouldn’t budge from $985,000; and Clintophile Brown bid only $10,000 higher, carefully avoiding the million-dollar mark. So the first-ever woman secretary of state, who organized a war to prevent "genocide," couldn’t raise enough interest to get a million-dollar offer from a single publisher. Perhaps Talk Miramax already felt like suckers at $995,000.

To fill the void of legacy and accomplishment of her era, today Albright—like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton—travels around the world giving speeches criticizing abler leaders. Nor is Albright too shy to fill the dearth of praise by quoting her own daughter, telling The Globe and Mail that "when Condoleezza Rice was named national security adviser, nobody questioned it. One of my daughters said, ‘That’s because of you, Mom. You did a good job. People no longer wonder if women can have high-level jobs like that.’"

Forgetting the fact that a quarter century ago, and in the Olde Country, no one questioned Margaret Thatcher—who was elected and not appointed--this assessment overstates Albright’s own achievement while understating Rice’s—and manages to credit a share of the latter to herself. If Albright encountered reluctance from the old boy network in her camp, it wasn’t because people questioned whether a woman could do the job; it was because they questioned whether she could. Their hesitations proved warranted.

For Albright is merely the outer shell of her father, ambitious but devoid of substance. She had the chutzpah to make it in his field, but once there was out of her league.

In stark contrast, Rice--who has talent to burn--never made her pursuit one of titles and credentials. She had a genuine hunger for understanding and expertise in a field. The certificates, titles and letters followed, scurrying to keep pace with the expanding intellect—whereas Albright’s intellect still hasn’t caught up to all the pieces of paper. If Rice changed Korbel’s opposition to women in international politics, his daughter justified it.

The very vision of brains and competence, Rice stands as a nemesis to her mentor’s daughter, who in a few years or less will go down in history as the worst ever secretary of state. If anyone still listens to what she has to say, it’s because of the age-old assumptions that older people are wise and homely women are smart. The younger and prettier Condoleezza Rice is smarter and wiser. So where is all the feminine fanfare for the first female—and black—national security adviser? Or is Rice, who made it on her substance and not her sex, too abstract a concept for most women to comprehend?

Giving Albright her due, she is right to see herself as a trailblazer for future women leaders: The assumption from now on will be that they can’t possibly do any worse. If she cleared any path, it was by lowering the bar.

Indeed, it took a Bill Clinton to give us a Madeleine Albright Asked by journalists to comment, the Bush Administration had better things to do than bother with yesterday’s ham on toast. But I don’t. Lest anyone think the sandwich request be hyperbolic, let’s recall that the Albanian delegation to 1999’s Kosovo peace talks thought she was the cleaning lady.

For all the obsessive touting she does of her gender, unable to get over herself as the first female Secretary of State even after flunking the job, this is one woman who should have aimed lower in life.

In April, Albright earned her groupthink stripes when she told Canada’s The Globe and Mail that she considers being a woman an advantage in the realm of foreign affairs: "I think women are better listeners and we can relate better on a personal basis, which ultimately makes a big difference in high-level, international relations." (Move over, Oprah!)

Even her positions on the issues over the years read like a checklist for the "female perspective." When she was assistant professor at Georgetown University and coming to be known for her no-nonsense one-liners in debates, she criticized the Reagan administration with the following: "Of course Grenada worked. It was the Redskins versus the Little Sisters of the Poor." When an American warship accidentally shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988, she accused the administration of "murdering innocent people." And while campaigning for Walter Mondale in 1984, she "clung to the hope that hordes of angry female voters would make the decisive difference by casting their votes for the Ferraro-Mondale ticket," as Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs writes in his 1999 biography of the first woman secretary. "It was the soccer mom theory of American politics ten years before it became fashionable."

Albright has been called "tough" on issues, an "outspoken woman who tells it like it is." Unfortunately, she is generally tough on the wrong issues and has a flair for telling it like it isn’t. Even after it wasn’t.

The piece de resistance — or one of them, at least — came in 1990, when she was vocal in opposing the use of force against Iraq — even after Kuwait had been successfully liberated — arguing that more time should have been given to negotiations and sanctions. But as secretary of state, Albright offered no such alternatives to Yugoslavia, for whose Kosovo problem she displayed "irrational exuberance" in being the earliest and most consistent advocate of using American military might, as she had likewise been with Bosnia. (The same woman last week: "It is not an American trait to want war.") In other words, where military force makes sense, she is against it; where it will cause a quagmire, she is for it. When the enemy is scary, she advocates passivity; when the enemy is not an enemy, she calls for attack. As for the man sitting on trial today for her Kosovo aggression, embarrassing the prosecution more and more with each passing day — to the point that there is virtually no media coverage of what was billed as the biggest trial since Nuremberg — Albright is "confident that the prosecutors will get him."

More recently, she lamented Bush’s extending the "axis of evil" label to Iran, the world’s most active sponsor of terrorism, which she believes "should be dealt with in a more subtle way." Indeed, the woman gives a whole new meaning to the term counter-intelligence.

Of course, issuing such foreign-policy-based criticism risks public recollection of her own, Picasso-like perceptions of the world—which not long ago led to a series of international blunders and failures.

Talking to the press corps on her plane during trips to the Middle East, Albright would make proclamations such as: "We’re going to have a deal no matter what. We’re working 20 hours a day now; we’ll work 24 hours if we have to." Which means that if you’re Yassir Arafat, you hear the desperation and you wait for a better deal. So there was more to the Arab rejection of the generous Clinton/Barak offer than Palestinian bad faith: There was Maddie Albright.

Here is a woman whose college student’s understanding of the outside world managed to give even the sometimes naive Colin Powell an aneurysm when she famously asked, "What’s the point in having this superb military you are always talking about if we can’t use it?"

Not at Albright.

Ultimately, the queen of cheap morality found what to do with it: defend terrorists against the sovereign state that was struggling to contain them, while telling Americans that we were preventing the conflict from spreading. (The same woman last week: "It is not a sign of sound leadership to understate the risks of war.")

Now that the Kosovo conflict has spread to Macedonia and the rest of Yugoslavia and has solidified terror cell links, one would think she might quiet down and bow out of the fray (as she conveniently did for a time when it first started becoming clear just how far into oblivion "Madeleine’s War" had hurtled the Balkans). Especially since, when she was secretary, her old mentor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service said he could not "recall a time when our foreign policy was in less competent hands."

Indeed, her very appointment to the office shocked Albright’s former bosses and co-workers, who considered her a "process person" rather than a "substance person," according to Dobbs. A paper-pusher, in other words. Silly Bill appointed her the wrong kind of secretary; she was supposed to get Betty Curry’s job.

She was also a people-pusher, according to many, including Anita Jensen, who worked under Albright when she was a legislative aide for Senator Edmund Muskie: Jensen remarked on Albright’s "superior social intelligence," which she describes as "knowing what people want from you and factoring that into how you deal with them. Madeleine…has a hyper-ability to understand what other people are about, where they are coming from, what they are likely to need, and where their limits are."

Albright’s old boss, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, commended her "people-handling": "She knows how to make people feel good about themselves," he said. This skill came in handy on her long climb up, during which Albright allied herself with, and in some cases made herself indispensable to, winners like Muskie, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter.

For Brzezinski, Albright served as congressional liaison. As Dobbs describes, while he "welcomed her advice on how to deal with Congress, her foreign policy views were of little interest to him or to anyone else….Anyone trying to pick future secretaries of state from the NSC staff would likely have put Madeleine at the bottom of the list…she had no particular area of expertise."

Nor could Brzezinski, recalling her days as a student in his graduate seminar on comparative communism at Columbia University, describe her as a "special" student. "If she stood out," Dobbs writes, "it was because of her East European background" and her father’s connection to Brzezinski through the academic circuit. "All of that created more contact than would otherwise have been the case," Brzezinski said.

Albright’s father was Josef Korbel, former Czech diplomat to Yugoslavia and later a revered professor of foreign affairs at Denver University, where he founded the Graduate School for International Studies. At first, Korbel was reluctant to allow female students into the graduate program, believing their prospects to be limited. But one female changed his mind definitively: Condoleezza Rice. The woman at the forefront of the foreign policy which his daughter today maligns.

Both women credit Korbel with shaping their world views. But while one may have inherited his genes, the other got the brains. Because the student, in an ironic twist of providence, is now charged with clearing a path through the international mire that the daughter helped create.

Albright has said, "A great deal of what I did, I did because I wanted to be like my father," Why, then, has the man’s coffin worn thin from all the turning he’s done watching his progeny invert history’s lessons and misapply its analogies—not the least of which led her to bomb the country that had been Korbel’s "first thought for safety" in his family’s escape from Nazi Europe, where some less fortunate cousins were incinerated.

Calling herself a "child of Munich," the selling out of Czechoslovakia by Britain and France to Germany has been her primary historical reference for any and every political juncture since. In fact, like most interviews with the former secretary, parts of Dobbs’ book read as though he is quoting an exotic cockatoo: Munich. Munich. Munich. Munich! Munich! Munich! Munich! Munich!

Czechoslovakia also served as the backdrop for Albright’s unremarkable 413-page dissertation. Writes Dobbs: "Her dissertation has little distinction from the thousands of other worthy tomes filed away and forgotten in the stacks of Columbia University. Replete with dozens of pages of footnotes and a lengthy bibliography, it is a model of academic gruntwork, with few flashes of originality or brilliance."

Incidentally, Dobbs’ biography meant to be a sympathetic, if honest, portrayal. It goes on to describe how for the oral defense of her thesis Albright "left nothing to chance," lobbying committee members ahead of time. When she found out that Professor Charles Gati was to be on the committee, "she came in and worked me over. She was very friendly, very interested in me."

Additionally, then, it seems Albright left nothing to talent.

"Neither Gati nor his colleagues have specific recollections of her performance in front of the committee," Dobbs continues, "suggesting it was neither outstanding nor dismal."

That’s because Madeleine Albright is the penultimate mediocrity. She is that breed of credential-donning woman whose goal in such Ph.D. exercises is to get through it — get through what one must in order to snag those three all-important letters and that coveted appellation, "Doctor." Only after that point, as the biography attests, was she able to gauge her worth.

Of those who knew her before she was secretary, people were impressed not by Albright’s intellect, but by her ambition, "inquisitiveness" and sheer force of personality. Indeed, Albright attained several of her competitive career posts, including secretary of state, using the same tools that had served her to pass the oral dissertation: a savvy and energetic networking ability which included thrusting herself into the right people’s faces to make sure she was thought of when the time came.

Rather than depth, analytical ability or keen insight, Albright was catapulted to the seat of power by a combination of talent for influencing people and a rock-hard determination to not let "the boys win out," as she called it. The latter in particular resonated with women, who habitually credit Albright for having penetrated a man’s world amid what surely must have been vast and intimidating obstacles. One strain of logic common among the softer sex during Albright’s tenure went: "Well, aren’t there enough men in positions of power screwing up the world? It’s time to give a woman a chance!" Indeed, think of all the obstacles she had to overcome to get to a position where she could destabilize the universe.

Meanwhile, none of her champions, particularly the media elite that made her a celebrity figure, seem willing to put their money where their mouth is for this first female of state. Bidding last year for Albright’s memoirs proceeded at such an unenthusiastic pace — finally topping out at $995,000, for all rights, from Tina Brown — that Albright herself halted the bidding to avoid further embarrassment. It may not sound like chump change, but in context it seems to be: St. Martins Press and Harper Collins stepped out early on; Doubleday bowed out when the price reached $975,000; Scribner wouldn’t budge from $985,000; and Clintophile Brown bid only $10,000 higher, carefully avoiding the million-dollar mark. So the first-ever woman secretary of state, who organized a war to prevent "genocide," couldn’t raise enough interest to get a million-dollar offer from a single publisher. Perhaps Talk Miramax already felt like suckers at $995,000.

To fill the void of legacy and accomplishment of her era, today Albright — like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — travels around the world giving speeches criticizing abler leaders. Nor is Albright too shy to fill the dearth of praise by quoting her own daughter, telling The Globe and Mail that "when Condoleezza Rice was named national security adviser, nobody questioned it. One of my daughters said, ‘That’s because of you, Mom. You did a good job. People no longer wonder if women can have high-level jobs like that.’"

Forgetting the fact that a quarter century ago, and in the Olde Country, no one questioned Margaret Thatcher — who was elected and not appointed — this assessment overstates Albright’s own achievement while understating Rice’s, and manages to credit a share of the latter to herself. If Albright encountered reluctance from the old boy network in her camp, it wasn’t because people questioned whether a woman could do the job; it was because they questioned whether she could. Their hesitations proved warranted.

For Albright is merely the outer shell of her father, ambitious but devoid of substance. She had the chutzpah to make it in his field, but once there was out of her league.

In stark contrast, Rice never made her pursuit one of titles and credentials. She had a genuine hunger for understanding and expertise in a field. The certificates, titles and letters followed, scurrying to keep pace with the expanding intellect, whereas Albright’s intellect still hasn’t caught up to all the pieces of paper. If Rice changed Korbel’s opposition to women in international politics, his daughter justified it.

The very vision of brains and competence, Rice stands as a nemesis to her mentor’s daughter, who in a few years or less will go down in history as the worst ever secretary of state. If anyone still listens to what she has to say, it’s because of the age-old assumptions that older people are wise and homely women are smart. The younger and prettier Condoleezza Rice is smarter and wiser. So where is all the feminine fanfare for the first female — and black — national security adviser? Or is Rice, who made it on her substance and not her sex, too abstract a concept for most women to comprehend?

Giving Albright her due, she is right to see herself as a trailblazer for future women leaders: The assumption from now on will be that they can’t possibly do any worse. If she cleared any path, it was by lowering the bar.

Indeed, it took a Bill Clinton to give us a Madeleine Albright.



We have implemented a new commenting system. To use it you must login/register with disqus. Registering is simple and can be done while posting this comment itself. Please contact gzenone [at] horowitzfreedomcenter.org if you have any difficulties.
blog comments powered by Disqus




Home | Blog | Horowitz | Archives | Columnists | Search | Store | Links | CSPC | Contact | Advertise with Us | Privacy Policy

Copyright©2007 FrontPageMagazine.com