Political punch in a package of charm

Condoleezza Rice has rarely heard a question she doesn’t know how to answer, from queries about her tumultuous childhood in segregated Alabama to her success in the male world of superpower politics, nuclear weapons and arms control.

She meets me with the friendly smile and easy hospitality of a west-coaster, defying the image of someone anointed by Washington insiders to become the most powerful woman in the world in a year. The chief foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, Rice is being tipped as a likely secretary of state or national security adviser should Bush win the White House.

As huge a task as this sounds, Rice’s own life story has the word “amazing” written all over it. At 45, she has been the first black woman in just about any job she’s taken on: from special assistant for national security affairs to President George Bush when she was only 34, to provost of California’s prestigious Stanford University (the Harvard of the west coast) where she managed a budget of nearly $2bn…

Down so long, it looks like up

Peter Bogdanovich is finally “up” again, but the warm reception his new film, “The Cat’s Meow”, has been getting is “strangely terrifying” to him. His first major movie, “The Last Picture Show”, which he made in 1971 when aged 32, was called the best work by a young American director since Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”. After two more hits, however, his career nosedived.

“I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me,” he says of the renewed interest in his work, although it couldn’t compare to the success he had 30 years ago. “It’s been a long time since I had a picture that the public liked, the critics tolerated, the studio backed and I thought it was the way I wanted it. That confluence of things doesn’t happen very often”…