To the Bushes, Ms. Rice, 49, is almost a surrogate daughter, a charming, reassuring and — in private — sardonic presence who can explain Middle East policy in five digestible bites. She is also, like the president's mother and another influential adviser, Karen P. Hughes, a tough-minded woman brimming with self-confidence.
To Ms. Rice, an only child who has never married and whose parents have died, the Bushes are some of the closest friends she has. Just about the only time she spends away from her job, and the Bushes, is on Sunday afternoons, when Ms. Rice, who trained as a concert pianist, returns from Camp David and practices with a chamber music group.
"We are all in one way or another close to the family, but she is especially close to the family because of the time she spends with the president," said Mr. Powell, who was national security adviser to Ronald Reagan. "This is not unusual, but at the same time, a little unusual."
Now I’m not suggesting that anything inappropriate is going on. But isn’t it a little odd that the National Security Adviser of the United States spends an inordinate amount of time prepping, cajoling, and explaining things to the President? Maybe this is why she can’t seem to get a handle on her job.
In Washington, Ms. Rice has faced increasing criticism that while she has done a good job as the president's friend and cheerleader, she has done a bad job of managing the president's frequently warring foreign policy team.
Her inability to rein in other powerful advisers, critics say, has helped lead to little planning for the occupation in Baghdad, stalled negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and no success in stopping North Korea from making nuclear weapons.