I am not making this up.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has put her reputation on the line by delving into Arab-Israeli peacemaking, a high-risk gamble that experts say will be hard to pull off.

I could just stop right there, because that alone is so spectacularly funny, but it’s only the lede.

Rice is expected to do most of the Bush administration’s heavy lifting in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians that were revived at a U.S.-hosted Middle East conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.

[snip]

“Clearly, this is an effort to give President Bush an achievement. It’s heritage-building time,” added Dunbar, a former U.S. ambassador to Qatar and Yemen.

[snip]

“We have never seen her deeply involved in a process of this sort that allows us to judge her creativity and her capacity to think outside the box,” said Marina Ottaway, director of Middle East programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think-tank.

[snip]

“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ — the next day you would come in and it had come apart again,” said Rice, according to a transcript of an interview with USA Today in August last year.

[snip]

U.S. officials had sought every step of the way to lower expectations before the conference but now the bar has been raised and all eyes will be on Rice.

“You have a U.S. president and secretary of state who have put their reputations on the line for this (peace effort),” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said. “It would be foolish to be anything other than cautious,” he told reporters in Annapolis.

[snip]

In the past year Rice has made eight trips to the region to try to lay the groundwork for Israeli-Palestinian talks. She has promised to use every ounce of her energy to shepherd a deal.

As she shuttles back and forth, a key question will be whether Rice will have the backing of Bush when it comes to taking hard decisions, especially those unpopular with close U.S. ally Israel.

[snip]

“In the game of importance on world issues, where would you put Israel and Palestine versus Iraq … Palestine, my goodness, that is the big issue of the century,” said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.

“That is what they hand out Nobel peace prizes for,” added Hess, a veteran staffer of the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations and an adviser to former U.S. presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

But even if she fails, some analysts say the consequences will not be devastating for the 53-year-old Rice who would join a “distinguished crowd” of others who did not succeed.

“She is young, she has her health, she has a long way to go in terms of doing more with her life,” Dunbar said. (Editing by Howard Goller)

Inquiring minds want to know…Can Condi be any more condescending? Can she take the plight of millions of people any less seriously? Can Middle East peace possibly be any more about Condi and George: their “valuable” reputations, their legacies, their possible Nobel Peace Prizes? Could Condi have possibly waited any longer to try her hand at thinking outside the box? If she fails, can it be brushed off any more blithely?

Even though some people may suffer, it’s good to know that Condi will recover from this no matter what happens. I mean, that’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.