Partying with Secretary Rice: Condi Names Names

The opportunity was too good to pass up. A chance for a little private time with the Secretary of State. Girl to Girl. Off the air and with a drink in our hands (or at least in mine).

The scene was Monday night's party toasting this year's Time 100. But my mingle moment of choice was with Condoleezza Rice.

Here was my chance to ask her one of the many burning questions I have for her. So I ran through the options in my mind: When will our troops be coming home from Iraq? How real is the possibility of commando raids on Iran? Why is the president so intent on standing by Rumsfeld? How did Porter Goss beat Rummy out the door? Has Rummy's Medal of Freedom already been minted? Will Bush's Nixonian approval ratings at home make her job tougher abroad? (I knew the one question I wouldn't ask: What about 2008? I'll let Tim Russert keep asking and asking and asking and asking that one. He owns the copyright on it.)

But reality quickly dawned on me: Rice has no unguarded moments. She is so unrelentingly on message, caution is so hardwired into her DNA, that the chance of her adding even a morsel to my knowledge about any of the above issues was less likely than Patrick Kennedy being picked as the new spokesman for Ambien or the automated voice mail system in Tom Tancredo's office giving you the option to "Press 2 to continue in Spanish."

I knew she would smile and tell me that our troops will step down when Iraqi security forces step up, that all options are on the table in Iran (though we trust diplomatic efforts will succeed), that Rumsfeld has the full confidence of the president, and that Bush will be judged by history not by daily headlines.

So after exchanging pleasantries, I decided to ask her the one question to which I honestly and truly had no idea what the answer would be:

"Who designed your dress?"

"Rene Lange," she replied. "And who designed yours?"

"Kira Craft. She's a young designer in Los Angeles."

We had found sartorial common ground.