Timecover story
Even as the Bush Administration's support has slid to historic depths, Rice's image has been relatively unsullied. She remains not just the most glamorous member of the Bush Cabinet but also its most popular, with job-approval ratings 20 points higher than her boss's.
fawning cover stories
Those who have spoken to her say her determination to seek a comprehensive settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is real. A senior Arab official says that on her trip to the region last month, Rice pledged to help set up a Palestinian state by the end of Bush's term.

The most optimistic diplomats, including Rice, hope that U.S. engagement on Palestine could lead to other areas of cooperation among "moderate" Middle East forces, all of whom have an interest in checking the influence of Shi'ite Iran and subduing radical Sunni groups aligned with al-Qaeda. If that happens, the U.S. may be able to build a security arrangement that could limit some of the damage done by the misadventure in Iraq.
Given the limited time available for the task ahead, it's admirable that Rice still exudes optimism.
Isaac Chotiner