US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has certainly brought a different style to US diplomacy.
Watch this space for Paul Reynolds' list of "Best Dressed / Worst Dressed American Secretaries of State."
On her visit to Europe and the Middle East, she has softened the hard edges and has probably made it easier for President Bush when he visits Europe later this month.
Yeah, we know President Bush is staying up all night worrying about those "hard edges".
But has there been a change of substance? Probably less than appears.
You wish. Now we've finally got a Secretary of State who's got a backbone, not playing some foolish game of go-along-get-along with all the fascist regimes.
Take the Middle East. Her visit has signalled a re-engagement by the Bush administration in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Ms Rice was fortunate in that her appointment as secretary of state coincided with significant movements towards peace talks in the Middle East, but she did her bit by encouraging new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Indeed, the language she used was far more even-handed than was the case when late Yasser Arafat was in power.
So to an extent, US Middle East policy has developed.
Really and truly, people, this is NOT PARODY! Let's read those last couple of lines again, just for fun: "Indeed, the language she used was far more even-handed than was the case when late Yasser Arafat was in power. So to an extent, US Middle East policy has developed."
Well, I'm just as flattered as all heck that this brilliant Brit thinks "US Middle East policy has developed." But really, shouldn't we give credit where it's due? I mean, of course, to the late Yasser Arafat, for making all this possible ... by becoming, well, the late Yasser Arafat.
It must not be forgotten that, smiles or no smiles, Ms Rice represents a confident President Bush who set out his stall on foreign policy very strongly in his inaugural address last month.
Yer darn tootin.
His message was that "liberty and freedom" were his watchwords and that he would aim to spread them around the world.
Ms Rice is not a restraining influence on him. She is his most faithful spokesperson, having been at his side long before his election in 2000.
First of all, it's Dr. Rice. But let's not quibble; notice the sexist, racist condescension. If Dr. Condoleezza Rice were an influence on President Bush, she would have to be a "restraining influence", right? Sort of like a benevolent Mammy or an Aunt Jemima. But most people who follow current events know that the Chief is influenced by some strong, intelligent women - including the First Lady, Karen Hughes, and Dr. Rice. So how is it, then, that Rice must be either a "restraining influence" or a "spokesperson"?
Rice is not a restraining influence on him.
One of her many virtues.
As his national security adviser, she probably could have stopped the war against Iraq. She did not do so.
Good for her. In fact, she probably actively encouraged it. Thank G-d the BBC doesn't set our foreign policy.
By training she is a Soviet specialist and one thing she and the president share is a belief that totalitarianism can be overthrown by the "power of the people".
You'll find, Paul, that this quaint notion is shared by quite a few of us colonials. Should you ever decide to expand your expertise in foreign matters to those curious folks across the Atlantic, you might get quite a few surprises, in fact.
The Bush team is now applying that philosophy to the Middle East.
Those who play ball will be favoured. The Palestinians are finding that out.
Those who do not will be threatened, by diplomacy if not by war. Iran and Syria are finding that out.
"Iran" and "Syria" are not being threatened. The regimes in those countries are.
As for Europe, there is a truce in effect.
The French and Germans have no intention of joining in the Iraq adventure and reckon that the US is now paying the price of a wrong decision.
So they do not feel the need to rub American faces in it.
No, I'm serious ... this is not parody. Golly, those nice French and Germans ... we liberate 25 million people from sadistic tyranny, earn a major strategic ally in the Middle East, and France and Germany are not going to rub our faces in it.
How very, er, European of them.
Washington itself has its hands too full to make much of an issue about it.
In fact, the US over-stretch both financially and militarily in Iraq is probably the most effective restraint on further military operations elsewhere. And that in itself helps calm relations.
Um, don't bet on either one of those.
Secretary Rice made her pitch in a big speech in Paris, deliberately chosen as the site of the major pronouncement of her trip.
"America stands ready to work with Europe on our common agenda and Europe must stand ready to work with America," she said.
That is all very well but there is in fact no agreement on a common agenda.
The expected lifting of the EU arms embargo against China and potential differences if Iran goes ahead with uranium enrichment provide just two examples of divisive issues.
Well, Paul Reynolds, sometimes these things happen. Sometimes the world ain't perfect. Sometimes life just stands up and takes a big old leak right in your tea. But you've got to roll with it, pal. And sometimes you've got to play ball.