The Cable

8 behind-the-scenes moments in Condoleezza Rice’s new book

In Condoleezza Rice's soon-to-be-released book No Higher Honor, the former national security advisor and secretary of state defends her role in protecting the United States from terror and reveals details of dramatic clashes between key figures in former President George W. Bush's administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Here are some of the mini-scoops in the 766-page book, an advance copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy:

On peace and Palestine: It was President Bush himself who pushed for a change in U.S. policy to call openly for the creation of a state called "Palestine" in late 2002. Cheney' staff grumbled and the Israelis objected -- even going so far as to try and water down the president's language by asking for him to call it "New Palestine," but Bush rejected that request. Rice wrote that, despite this bold step by Bush, "whatever you do for peace in the Middle East, it's never enough for the Arab parties to the conflict."

On North Korean nukes: The CIA had informed top Bush administration officials in September 2002 that North Korea had built a "production scale" facility for uranium enrichment. Assistant Secretary of State Jim Kelly confronted the North Koreans about it on a trip there in October 2002, but any hope of negotiating away that program was scuttled when news of it was leaked to the press. Rice accused "hardliners" in Cheney's office and the Pentagon of leaking the information to ruin any chance of further negotiations with the North.

On the Kurdish invasion plan: In spring 2002, while making preparations for a war in Iraq, the Bush administration debated a smaller-scale military intervention in Iraq's Kurdish north, to confront the threat of a biological weapons lab being run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Cheney and Rumsfeld were in favor of attacking right away, while Rice and Powell were opposed. Bush decided not to attack and let the larger Iraq strategy play out.

On relations with Syria: Rice wrote that she regretted recalling the Ambassador to Syria Margaret Scobey in 2005 following the Syrian assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. "At the time the decision seemed wise, but once she was pulled, it was hard to send her back," wrote Rice, adding that over the next few years there were several occasions when it would have been helpful to have an ambassador in Damascus.

On fighting the Pentagon: By late 2004, tensions between Rice and the Pentagon had grown, primarily due to the worsening situation in Iraq. Rice said that the Pentagon was too focused on security metrics and had never explained the basic U.S. strategy in Iraq. That's what led Rice to eventually lay out the strategy of "clear, hold and build" in Congressional testimony in October 2005. Rumsfeld was angry at Rice and thought she was stepping out of her lane. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, was also upset. "I really didn't care," wrote Rice. "Somebody has to be able to explain what we're doing, I thought."

On live and let live in Pakistan: The Bush administration initially agreed to support Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's deal in late 2006 with militant groups in North Waziristan to let them have safe haven as long as they didn't make trouble. The deal was known as "live and let live." The Bush administration told Musharraf in a September 2006 meeting at the White House that they would "give the deal a chance to work." Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was also there at the time, was infuriated.

On biowarfare at the White House: In late 2001, top White House officials were informed that White House detectors had registered positive for botulinum toxin, a deadly nerve agent that had no antidote. Rice, Bush, and Powell were in Shanghai for the APEC conference when Cheney called to inform them they had been exposed. All the top officials sat nervous for 24 hours while the toxin was tested on laboratory mice. When the mice survived, Rice and the other officials knew it was a false alarm.

On Cheney's double-dealing: During the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006, Rice was "practically begging" the Israelis to back off of their assault on Beirut, because she felt it was undermining the fragile government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Rice was working hard to end the conflict. Meanwhile, Cheney had been dealing with the Israelis behind her back, she wrote, expressing support for continuing the war. Rice was furious. When Cheney told Bush openly he thought the war should continue, Rice told Bush, "Do that and you are dead in the Middle East." In this case, Bush sided with Rice.


The Cable

John Podesta stepping down as head of CAP

Center for American Progress (CAP) President and CEO John Podesta will be stepping down as the day-to-day manager and handing over the reins to CAP's Chief Operating Officer Neera Tanden.

Podesta, who founded CAP in 2003 and also served as the head of President Barack Obama's transition team, will remain as CAP's chairman of the board and will be a full-time employee at CAP focusing on long-term strategic planning and new projects. The change in management will take effect Nov. 1.

"By pulling out of the day-to-day, I will able to pursue two parallel objectives," Podesta wrote in a note to CAP employees today, obtained by The Cable. "Inside CAP, I intend to use this greater time and latitude to play an instrumental role in planning CAP's strategic growth, increasing our financial support, and drawing new initiatives into the organization. On the outside, I will continue teaching as a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center and working part-time as an uncompensated senior advisor at the State Department."

Podesta's role as senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not been previously reported. Podesta has been working at the State Department unpaid, one day a week, since late last month, a State Department official told The Cable.

Podesta has been serving as an expert consultant to the State Department, providing advice on foreign policy priorities. Specifically, he has been helping State implement components of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), including efforts to leverage diplomacy for development, elevating the role of energy and economics in U.S. foreign policy, and enhancing civilian power in the transitions occurring in the Middle East, the official said. 

Throughout his long career in Washington, Podesta has worked on a number of key the foreign policy issues, focusing heavily on energy security, economic security, climate change, civilian power, civil society building, and international development.

He was President Bill Clinton's chief of staff and was a principal on the National Security Council. He was also counselor to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (1995-1996), chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987-1988), and chief minority counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks, Security and Terrorism, and Regulatory Reform (1981-1987).

Tanden, who is a graduate of Yale Law School and served as policy director for Clinton's presidential campaign, will take over Podesta's responsibilities. She talked about her desire to unite the left in advance of the 2012 election in an interview with the New York Times today.

"There's a lack of faith in our ability to solve large-scale problems together, and that weakens the progressive cause," she said. "There's big hunger for bigger solutions, and some of the reaction we're seeing in this country is a rejection of the current discourse in Washington."