Throughout, her most distinguishing trait seems to be an eagerness to please her superiors, which is entirely consistent with how she rode the escalator to success. Want to avoid declaring that genocide is taking place in Rwanda? Go to Rice. Want to fudge the facts in Libya? Rice is there again. Obama had it right when he observed that she “had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received.” But why, as Maureen Dowd asked, didn’t she question it? The answer is simple: because she rarely, if ever, questions authority. Instead she has made a career out of catering to it.

Perhaps, then, it should not be altogether surprising that her record in Africa seems to have been one of catering to some of the most loathsome dictators in the region. She fell over herself to praise the late Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi in September. In a keen analysis in the National Journal, Michael Hirsh noted that she has come under severe fire from human-rights activists for her insouciance about Africa and that, “recently, during a meeting at the U.N. mission of France, after the French ambassador told Rice that the U.N. needed to do more to intervene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rice was said to have replied: ‘It’s the eastern DRC. If it’s not M23, it’s going to be some other group,’” according to an account given by a human-rights worker who spoke with several people in the room. (Rice’s spokesman said he was familiar with the meeting, but did not know if she made the comment.)

Once again, this may not have been her personal predilection, but Rice was only too happy to try and bury foreign-policy problems rather than confront them.