Video: Rice conquers Europe

By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/10/2005 8:58:09 PM ET 2005-02-11T01:58:09

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s charm offensive was on display this week with students at a music conservatory in Paris.

“Helen, you played beautifully,” she told one pianist. “I don’t have a chance to play very much anymore, but I try to play at least every Sunday afternoon.”

Rice has been playing piano since she was 3, prompting an invitation to return from the mayor of Paris.

“Next time you play for Paris,” said Bertrand Delanoë.

On her 10-country tour, Condi Rice has played Paris — and London, Berlin, Warsaw, Ankara, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Rome, Brussels and Luxembourg.

Her march through Europe's capitals was planned like Napoleon’s: All laid out in a 180-page battle plan written by her staff to help conquer former critics, like German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

After Rice called on a reporter instead of letting Schroeder be in charge, Schroeder remarked, “We are in Germany, but that's woman power.”

Rice has stripped the secretary of state's customary entourage to a bare minimum, her staff says, because she hates big motorcades, pomp and ceremony.

She makes a point of always arriving on time, or even early. She had to slow down her motorcade when she arrived 20 minutes before the British foreign minister for their meeting.

Even on the road her uncompromising discipline doesn’t flag. She gets up at 4:30 to work out and never touches junk food. But she's not all work. She's a football fanatic. She even tried to watch the Super Bowl live in Jerusalem at 1:30 a.m.

“I've never missed a Super Bowl since they began,” she says.

Europe's hard-bitten press treated her like a rock star, praising her elegance, her polish and despite her Ph.D. in political science, even calling her exchange with the German chancellor “coquettish.”

How does that make her feel?

“I don't think much about it,” says Rice. “I will do what I do. I'm a package. I'm who I am and that includes being female.”

European leaders say her unique power comes from her unusually close, almost family-like relationship with the president.

“We love her,” said President Bush at her swearing-in ceremony last month. “I don't know if you're supposed to say that about the secretary of state.”

The new secretary of state was both tough and diplomatic on her first tour, but her vision for America's foreign policy is still a mystery — as is how she plans to use her considerable power.

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