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Interview on NBC's Today Show with Jay Leno

Secretary Colin L. Powell
David Citadel Hotel
May 11, 2003

(Aired 7:15 a.m. EDT, May 12)

MR. LENO: Before we get started, I want to ask you, do you remember the name you wanted to be called? You were on the Tonight Show once with me a number of years ago, and you said there's a name you really wanted to be called by. Do you remember?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I do, Jay. I think it was Skip.

MR. LENO: Skip, yeah. Somehow, Skip doesn't apply today. So "Mr. Secretary" I will go with, I think. You just don't seem like a Skip. As much as you would like to be called that, it just doesn't seem to work.

Let me ask you, how hard is it to be diplomatic in the Middle East right now?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is a challenge, but I am pleased to have the opportunity I had today to speak to Prime Minister Sharon and members of his government, as well as the new Prime Minister of the Palestinian people, Prime Minister Abbas. And we have a new moment of opportunity here in the Middle East, Jay. With the end of the war in Iraq, President Bush has turned his attention to this part of the world again.

MR. LENO: Well, let me ask you about your meeting with Prime Minister Sharon earlier today. What concessions is he willing to make to the peace process? Is he going to withdraw Israeli troops from the Palestinian areas?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't call these concessions. I think these are steps he wants to take. He has no desire to keep troops in the Palestinian areas; it's a burden on him, it's a burden on his economy, on his military, on tourism and a lot of other things. What he is hoping to do is to move side-by-side, step-by-step, with the new Palestinian Prime Minister, where both sides take steps. Let's not call them concessions. Let's call them steps toward progress down the road to peace.

MR. LENO: Let's talk about the Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas for a minute. Do you think he can bring an end to these suicide bombings, as Yasser Arafat wasn't able or didn't want to do?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think he is committed to that. He said he understands that this kind of activity must end. I told him, on behalf of the President, that we would be prepared to work with him, and are going to be working with him, to help him generate that capacity, but we are expecting him to speak out and make the politically difficult choices of moving down this road.

MR. LENO: Now, Arafat can't be happy about not seeing you this trip. Is he just irrelevant at this point? Is he just out of the picture?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I believe he should be out of the picture. I think he is a failed leader, but he remains the elected president of the Palestinian people. But the United States has made it clear since last year that we can't deal with him because we don't believe he has been a partner for peace. Other nations have different views. So we are trying to do everything we can to support Prime Minister Abbas.

MR. LENO: Let me ask you about Jerusalem. They both want it as their capital. Is it realistic to think this could end up being a divided capital? Is that even in the running? Is it possible?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we will have to see. What we have found in previous negotiations with the two sides is that Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts and minds and souls of both peoples, as well as many other peoples and religions around the world. And so the final status of Jerusalem will have to be decided by negotiations between the parties, and there are strong views on both sides. And that is why we have left the final status of Jerusalem to be one of those issues we will deal with at the end of the road and not at the beginning of the road.

MR. LENO: Just a couple more things. Saddam Hussein -- let's say he's alive, we find him. Do we try him in the United States? Does he get tried by the Iraqi people? What would happen if we find him alive?

SECRETARY POWELL: That remains to be seen. I think the Iraqi people have a lot of charges they would like to levy against him, and let's hope that that's the way it would be handled. I think that would be the proper justice. But at the moment, we don't know if he's alive or dead, and that's the best answer anyone can give you on the matter of Saddam Hussein.

MR. LENO: Now, how about you and Donald Rumsfeld? Are you guys going to be playing golf together anytime soon? How is that going?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not a golfer, but Don and I get along just fine.

MR. LENO: Okay.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have strong views and we work for a President who encourages his Cabinet officers to have strong views and present strong views. And it is a favorite parlor game in Washington to say, you know, who's ahead one day or the other, me or Don. The fact of the matter is Don and I get along fine, we argue our views out, and we argue them out for only one purpose: so that our two views can help one person form his view, and that's the President of the United States.

MR. LENO: Now, Dick Cheney is coming back in 2004. Will you stay on?

SECRETARY POWELL: Jay, I serve at the pleasure of the President, and that is the best answer I can give and the only answer I will give.

MR. LENO: All right, let me ask you this. Let's say you solved everything, everything's worked out great. What would you rather be doing?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm very pleased to be serving my nation in this capacity, honored to be serving this President, but there will come a day, Jay, when I will go back into retirement; and then you know what both you and I will want to do when we are both in retirement, and that's get together and play with our cars.

MR. LENO: That's right. All right, tell you what. We'll do that. In fact, we'll have a race. Your Volvo against my Lamborghini. That's fair.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll beat you.

MR. LENO: All right, you're on.

SECRETARY POWELL: You don't know how I've -- you don't know how I can "soup up" a 1966 Volvo station wagon.

MR. LENO: Sir, if there's anyone can do it, you're the one. So thank you. Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work. Thank you, sir.


MR. LENO: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good talking to you.

MR. LENO: You, too.

Released on May 12, 2003

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