"You are behind the counter because you have to work for minimum wage. I'm on this side asking to see the good jewelry because I make considerably more."
It's an excerpt from a new Condi-book about to be released next Tuesday:
"Condoleezza Rice may be willing to compromise at a Middle East negotiating table - but not at a jewelry counter.
Coit Blacker, a Stanford professor who is one of the secretary of state's closest friends, recalls going into a shop where Rice asked to see earrings. The clerk showed her costume jewelry. Rice asked to see something nicer, prompting the clerk to whisper some sass under her breath.
Blacker remembers Rice tearing the woman to shreds.
"Let's get one thing straight," he recalls her saying. "You are behind the counter because you have to work for minimum wage. I'm on this side asking to see the good jewelry because I make considerably more."
A manager quickly brought Rice better baubles.
Glenn Kessler recounts the tale in his penetrating new bio, "The Confidante: Condoleezza Rice and the Creation of the Bush Legacy." Kessler, a Washington Post correspondent who enjoyed unprecedented access to his subject, says Rice has lost none of her bluntness, once cutting off bulldog Donald Rumsfeld in front of startled Japanese counterparts. But she's also worked hard to soften her edges.
Her top aide, Jim Wilkinson, decreed that she shouldn't be photographed alone, but rather in the convivial company of other people. They may have tried hard to thaw her image when she showed up at an Air Force base in Germany dressed in a black, knee-high skirt and saucy knee-high boots. "With one arm stretched out, she looked like a cross between Mussolini and Liza Minnelli," Kessler writes.
The media ignored President Bush and ran pictures of Condi in those kitty boots. Later, when Rice asked Wilkinson what the fuss was about, he bashfully explained, "Men like these." Rice leaned in and whispered, "We know that."
She does let her hair down. Once at a party Blacker threw, Condi kicked off her shoes and started dancing. Wanting to show his partner how firm Rice's behind was, Blacker postulated that if he aimed a quarter at her butt, it would bounce right off like a rocket.
"He was right," says Kessler. "[Rice] didn't realize what he had done until everyone was laughing hysterically. She was flattered and proud."
And while Bush sometimes introduces her as "the most powerful woman in the history of the world," he also considers her "like my sister." Thus, at a briefing, he skipped over the gory details of the rape and torture committed by Saddam Hussein's sons, explaining: "I didn't want to say [those things] in front of Condi."
The St. Martin's book, which also details Rice's plan "to salvage the last 18 months of the Bush presidency," goes on sale next Tuesday.