The antipathy in Washington and elsewhere, though, is based on more than a series of TV interviews. While U.N. diplomats and U.S. officials who have dealt with Rice praise the intellect of the 48-year-old former Rhodes scholar and graduate of Stanford and Oxford, they say she has won few popularity contests during her meteoric rise.

Diplomats on the 15-nation U.N. Security Council privately complain of Rice’s aggressive negotiating tactics, describing her with terms like “undiplomatic” and “sometimes rather rude.” They attributed some blunt language to Rice – “this is crap,” “let’s kill this” or “this is bullshit.”

“She’s got a sort of a cowboy-ish attitude,” one Western diplomat said. “She has a tendency to treat other countries as mere (U.S.) subsidiaries.”

Two other diplomats – all three were male – supported this view.

“She’s not easy,” said David Rothkopf, the top manager and editor-at-large of Foreign Policy magazine. “I’m not sure I’d want to take her on a picnic with my family, but if the president wants her to be secretary of state, she’ll work hard.”