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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > December 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Interview by Deborah Orin of The New York Post

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 13, 2005

Full Transcript of Secretary Riceís Interview with Deborah Orin of the New York Post

MS. ORIN: We're going to sort of try and cover the waterfront, if we possibly can, starting with Iraq. We had this amazing poll yesterday, the ABC poll, which shows Iraqis are incredibly optimistic about the future and more optimistic than Americans about their future. What does that say to you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think it says to me that being released from the bondage of the kind of tyranny that Saddam Hussein represented -- do you want some water? That the kind of bondage and tyranny that he represented, people believe and understand that life is going to better, even if they are dealing with today's difficulties, even if they're seeing, I'm sure, the same images of violence on TV that we're seeing. But they believe that life is going to get better and I think it means that freedom matters to people.

Now, I fully understand that those sentiments are stronger in some parts of the country than they are in others and there's obviously work to do in the center of a country where the Sunnis are. Even there you're seeing Sunnis who are participating in a political process, participating and participating. And that says that they believe their future is in that political process. So I think it's a real affirmation of people's desire for freedom.

MS. ORIN: And yet, the news coverage we get from Iraq is so negative. Is part of what the problem that you're having right now that the news media, for whatever reason, is painting the picture as much worse than it really is?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the problem is that the tendency is to focus on the most violent acts because they are easy to represent on the TV screen, in particular. You know, the pictures of bombs going off and people screaming and blood flying is a lot easier to see than the rather quiet process of building a political consensus or the thousands of Iraqis participating in meetings to discuss the constitution or to debate. It's easier to show the violence. And it does obscure the very real progress that the Iraqis are making. I don't deny that it's a violent set of circumstances, that it's been tough, that it probably will stay tough for quite a long time, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

MS. ORIN: I mean, is the press at fault here, do you think?

SECRETARY RICE: I think -- well, I do think it would be a good thing, and you've seen it from time to time -- you see certain stories that really try to get more into depth of what the Iraqi experience really is, which is trying to make this political process work, trying to get economic reconstruction going at the same time that they're trying to deal with the violence. You see it from time to time. But I do think it would be useful to have a little bit of perspective on what they're going through. Some of it, I think, Deborah, is because the press reports on a daily headline basis, and historical events can't be measured in daily headlines and so it's perhaps harder to report.

MS. ORIN: When you look at Saddam Hussein at the trial right now, I mean, he's behaving like, almost like a dictator from Central Casting -- a little nutty, little crazy, sometimes almost a little pathetic -- and yet this was the guy who gassed tens of thousands. What do you make of his behavior at trial?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, it's hard to say. I mean, at times -- you're right, at times it's arrogance, at times it's going back to a past that no longer is there. But whatever his behavior, I think it'd be -- it's well to concentrate on the behavior of the Iraqis, which has been extraordinary. I mean, the Iraqi judge is a calm, solemn figure who clearly is taking his responsibilities to his people and to history very seriously. These extraordinary, heart-wrenching stories of people who are testifying, these witnesses who are testifying about what happened to them. I mean, I think you see the whole experience of the Iraqi people spreading out right here on television. And every nation has to go through some process of reconciliation with its past and that's often done by punishing the crimes that were committed, and I think that's what you're starting to see in Iraq. But I tend to tune him out a bit.

MS. ORIN: Really?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I try. I try because his day is over. You know, he's not coming back. And what is being built through this trial is a foundation for a new Iraq. And that means an Iraq that is going to want justice and want reconciliation and want people who have suffered those crimes to have a sense of justice and closure.

MS. ORIN: Do you think, though -- I mean, are you surprised by his behavior?

SECRETARY RICE: No. You know, we've seen it with Milosevic. Now, there's a tendency -- these are people who always -- I mean, they controlled their environment in an absolute way. They controlled their fellow citizens and they controlled the environment and nobody every questioned them. And so I think they can't quite believe their circumstances.

MS. ORIN: Do you -- what do you think when you see the pictures of the Iraqis voting? I mean, you're starting to see it, Mademoiselle photographing it.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. I'm so -- I have a couple of emotions. One is that I'm really pleased for them, you know, that they're getting to engage in this, in many ways, very simple act that all of us who have ever voted know it's so much more than putting that ballot in a box.

You know, I remember when I voted the first time. I was so proud to vote for the first time and I think what if my voting for the first time had been won in the way that their voting for the first time, had been won--- with absolute tyranny. So I am -- and living through absolute tyranny. And so I'm very pleased for them and I think it's affirming of everything we believe, that human beings, no matter where they are and no matter what culture they're a part of, in fact, are strong -- have strong aspirations for the dignity that comes with being able to say what you think and being able to ensure that the governed are going to have your consent.

I'm very proud of our men and women in uniform and our people like our diplomats who have been out there in the hardest of circumstances, our coalition partners. I talked today at Heritage about some of the 12 states that themselves have been through a recent period of tyranny like El Salvador or Lithuania, and how proudly they have served and sacrificed to support the Iraqi people. They are being affirmed in this process as well.

MS. ORIN: What's your prediction for the elections?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I can't predict American elections. I don't know enough about Iraqi elections. (Laughter.) I don't think anybody really knows. I saw a poll not too long ago. It's more than 20 percent of the Iraqi people who were declaring themselves still undecided a few days ago. And I think our hope is that people who are elected will form a basis of a non-sectarian government or a government that is really for all Iraqis -- that's the most important thing -- committed to democratic principles, committed to human rights and committed to being a good neighbor in the neighborhood. I think that there are a lot of people who represent those views.

MS. ORIN: Do you think the Sunnis will vote?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes. I think they will. I think they made a big mistake and they know they made a big mistake in January when they didn't vote. And it was ironic during the writing of the constitution that Shia and Kurds had to basically accept the notion that they should open the political space to Sunnis, despite the fact that Sunnis had not participated in the elections and didn't have a lot of representatives in the assembly and so forth. But they opened the political space anyway because they really want to build an Iraq that unified, and so now the Sunnis seem to be determined that they're not going to be in that position again.

And so we all held our breath after the constitution passed because one wondered if the reaction of the Sunnis who had overwhelmingly voted against it might be, well, we're taking it to the streets, we're through with this political process. And it was 24 or 48 hours later that you had Sunni politicians on stage -- on television saying, okay, we're going to go fight at the polls, we're going to win enough seats so that we can reverse things about this constitution we don't like. And it just showed to me a tremendous political maturity.

MS. ORIN: If you had one word to describe how you feel right now going into the election, what would it be?

SECRETARY RICE: One word? (Laughter.) Well first, anticipation. I think anticipation. I know there's (inaudible) violence and difficult times. But every -- I just think it's amazing when you think that Saddam Hussein was ruling this country and oppressing his people and invading his neighbor, doing just horrible things, an absolute tyrannical dictator just a few years ago, and now they're about to have an election to have really the first completely freely elected government in the Middle East.

I mean, you know, the Lebanese have gone through this, after having to expel Syrian occupation, so it's a little bit different circumstance. I just think it's extraordinary. And you're not talking about a small state here. You're talking about a big, complex, key state in the middle of the Arab world. When you go to Baghdad, you know that this was a great city before Saddam Hussein ruled, where you know that this is a great civilization. You know that it's at the heart of the Arab world, at the heart of the Middle East, and that when the Iraqis get this right, it's going to have enormous repercussions throughout this region.

MS. ORIN: I wanted to switch gears. You know, as New Yorkers, we're sort of curious. It's possible you might live in New York, since that's where the National Football League is headquartered, as I recall?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) That's right.

MS. ORIN: I wanted to ask you what are your favorite places in New York?

SECRETARY RICE: In New York? Well, everybody loves New York, right? I still am somebody who, you know, kind of marvels at Times Square and Rockefeller Center. I remember going to Rockefeller Center when I was about five years old, I think, and we went and we saw the Rockettes perform. And they had a --

MS. ORIN: Me, too.

SECRETARY RICE: And I'll tell you, it shows how old I am. It was in 1959 and Alaska and Hawaii had been admitted to the union. And so they had half the Rockettes dressed up like, you know, Alaskan kind of Eskimo costumes and they had half in Hawaiian outfits. I don't know, I was just fascinated. I thought it was terrific. And so you know, I love Rockefeller Center.

Of course, because I love classical music, I love going to the Lincoln Center. I've gone to Lincoln Center on a number of occasions and I just love doing that. And I've not spent as much time as I would like to at the Met but I'd love to do that. And then any sports event in New York is a great thing.

MS. ORIN: If you were going to go to one sports event in New York, who would you want to -- what team would you like to see play?


MS. ORIN: Not the Jets?


MS. ORIN: Now, why the Giants?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm an old NFL type and never quite forgiven Joe Namath for defeating the Baltimore Colts -- (laughter) -- even though he was from Alabama and I loved him, like everybody. But I think that the first football game that I watched as a kid was the New York Giants-Baltimore Colts, that famous overtime game and -- for the championship. The championship. And so the Giants have some special magic for me. And I also think Eli Manning is going to be a heck of a good quarterback.

MS. ORIN: Really?


MS. ORIN: Okay. So I have to ask, Super Bowl -- Giants?


MS. ORIN: Yeah.

SECRETARY RICE: Indianapolis. That's easy. (Laughter.)

MS. ORIN: Indianapolis over? Indianapolis beats?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, I don't think the NFC has got a really strong frontrunner here. Could be the Giants, but I just -- I don't know. They're not -- the teams in the NFC seem to me not to have quite found themselves yet.

MS. ORIN: If you were at the Met, are there paintings you -- is there an area of the Met --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the opera is where I -- I'm a great fan of opera and I love Russian opera, so I would love to see Boris Godunov done at the Met. But I'm a big opera fan. I go to the opera here a great deal and of course I'm a great classical music fan.

MS. ORIN: Is there any performance you've seen in New York that, you know, sticks in your memory?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, I saw a wonderful, wonderful performance, but I can't -- it must -- I was a professor at Stanford in my early days, so it must have been in the early '80s and it was a performance of Fidelio, which I just love.

MS. ORIN: Any place -- restaurants you like, places you like to go shopping?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I wouldn't -- I don't know New York well enough to go. I go wherever my friends tell me when I go to New York. (Laughter.)

MS. ORIN: What about if you were, like, walking along the street and looking for something to munch, what would it be? Would it be a hotdog?


MS. ORIN: It would be a hotdog?


MS. ORIN: Have you gotten hotdogs?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yeah. Sure.

MS. ORIN: Really?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, sure. Not so much lately. (Laughter.) No, but I love them. I eat them.

MS. ORIN: You do.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, the little hotdog stands. Sure, absolutely.

MS. ORIN: You are very used to reading stories about how you are what's going to single-handedly save the Republican Party from Hillary Clinton. What do you think when you see that?

SECRETARY RICE: That people are committing the sin of transference. (Laughter.) I just donít see myself as a political candidate. You know, I've said a lot of times and I really do mean it, I didn't run for anything in high school, let alone a kind of President of St. Mary's Academy, let alone President of the United States. At one level, obviously it's very nice that some people think that. And it's -- I'm honored that some people believe that I might even be someone that you should think of in the terms of President of the United States. But I can't. I can't even conceive of it.

MS. ORIN: What of, I mean, the stories that you didn't want to be Secretary of State either and the President said you've got to do this, why are you sitting on a rocking chair?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. But that was different because I'd been National Security Advisor. I just thought after four years that -- four really intense years -- that maybe it was time to go back to Stanford. But foreign policy is what I do. You know, I've done foreign policy all my academic and professional life. And so in that sense it wasn't such a stretch. But, you know, I've just never -- I never thought of myself in the political life.

MS. ORIN: Well, what if somebody -- I mean, no matter who the Republican nominee is next time around, everybody thinks you're it for Vice President. What if John McCain or Rudy Giuliani --

SECRETARY RICE: It's still -- it's still political life. And we're going to have -- this party is going to have many talented and capable people who can run for office and who can be a good President and Vice President. My goal right now is just to try to do the best I can at this extraordinary time. I mean, we were just sitting here talking about Iraqis voting. If you had told me five years ago or six years ago or when I was teaching these issues back at Stanford that we would be sitting here talking about Iraqis voting or Syrian forces out of Lebanon, I would have said, come on, not really likely. Well, we are. So I recognize that we're just an in an exceptional time, and since we are in an exceptional time, I'll concentrate on doing this.

MS. ORIN: My editorial page editor asked me to ask you the following. In the President's State of the Union speech last time, he said if Iranians stand up for their freedom, we'll stand up with them. Do we see any sign that that is happening and what can we do to help it along?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am quite certain that the Iranian people have the same burning desire for freedom and liberty that is there in all people. And the Iranian people, most especially, who are a -- who come from a great civilization and they're good people and are proud people and who have every reason to want a life that is better than a life that an unelected view have hijacked to themselves the right to tell everybody what to do. I mean, it doesn't befit a great civilization like Iran that that's the way that it's governed.

It is a repressive society, though. It's a society in which people are unable to voice much of that. I think we're going through a period where the world is coming to terms with a much more aggressive Iranian leadership than we've seen in recent years. You know, we've always thought that this was a regime that supported terrorism, was seeking nuclear weapons technologies and that was leading -- or that was repressing or oppressing the desires of its people. But Ahmadi-Nejad has sharpened that contradiction a lot. Now you see it. And he's saying and doing things and perhaps giving voice finally to people who recognize that Iran deserves better and the Middle East deserves better.

MS. ORIN: What if the Israelis bomb Iran? What would we do?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't want to speculate. I mean, look, the goal has to be to keep the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon because it would cause a lot of regional instability. There's no doubt about it. Israel would feel threatened; a lot of people would feel threatened with an Iranian nuclear weapon. And so we're very focused on trying to keep them from acquiring that technology that would ultimately lead to nuclear weapons.

MS. ORIN: If I can go back to Rockefeller Center for a couple seconds. Have you ever gone skating at Rockefeller Center?

SECRETARY RICE: No. No, I haven't. In fact, never. I've never been on an outdoor rink.


SECRETARY RICE: No, it's true. I was a figure skater, as you know, a serious figure skater. I've never skated outdoors. I've skated inside a rink and, you know, and the ice is nice and smooth. And Rockefeller Center looks like you could handle it because it also looks nice and smooth, but I've never, never been there. And now ten years or so since I've not been on the ice, I think, for maybe ten years.

MS. ORIN: Oh, really?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. It's a young person's sport. (Laughter.)

MS. ORIN: Well, what was the most complicated jump you ever did?

SECRETARY RICE: I was able to land a double toe loop, though that's actually cheating a little bit because I had to skip over the -- after the axel comes the double Salchow and I had to actually skip over the double Salchow because I never really manage to land it. So even though a double toe loop is supposed to be more complicated, that's the one. I was not a very good jumper.


SECRETARY RICE: I was -- I am pretty tall and long-legged and I didn't have a great fulcrum for jumping. I made my living on two things: I did very pretty school figures, which they don't do anymore, you know, tracing figure eights; and I was pretty musical, you know, I looked fairly graceful on the ice.

MS. ORIN: Are there places you like to shop in New York?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, just about anywhere. (Laughter.)

MS. ORIN: Just about?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) Just about anywhere.

MR. MCCORMACK: We're coming up right at the end here.

MS. ORIN: Yeah. Okay. I get one more question?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. It's a great -- but it's a great city. And I'll tell you, I didn't -- I didn't really feel comfortable in New York early on, and then in the '80s I was on a panel for something called the Social Science Research Council and we used to come to New York fairly frequently and I started to get to know New York a little bit better because I would come two or three times a year then and with the Council. And I started to really discover New York and then I had a couple of longtime friends who lived in New York, but it's a really great city.

MS. ORIN: Is there a piece of music right -- I mean, people's taste in music changes.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, it does.

MS. ORIN: Is there a piece of music that's particularly important to you or comforting to you now?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you're right that your tastes in music change. When I was very young I was a huge Mozart fan and then I went, like all pianists do, through a strong Chopin period. But I'm now an unabashed devotee of Brahms and there are lots and lots of Brahms pieces that I love. And usually what happens is whatever I'm working on at the time is kind of all-consuming to me. And right now I'm working on a Brahms piano Quartet, the C-minor piano Quartet to play with my -- part of my group. I'm also working on a Shostakovich piano quintet.

But probably the piece that I -- there are two things that I'd say. One is the piece that I maybe love most in a kind of comforting sense, a religious sense, is the Brahms Requiem, which I think is maybe one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. And then before I die, I am going to learn to play the Brahms First Piano Concerto. (Laughter.) But it may take me between now and the time that I do because it's a tough piece.

MS. ORIN: Where do you get the energy?


MS. ORIN: No, to do everything you do?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, well, I love what I do and that helps. I used to tell my students all the time at Stanford that your job in four years of college is actually not to find your career or your job, but it's to find what you're passionate about. And if you find something that you're passionate about, then you're going to be energetic about it and you're going to want to do it every day. And I'm lucky that I found, you know, foreign affairs about which I'm passionate and it's my vocation and my avocation. But I find, too, that there are a couple of practical things and then one more kind of cosmic thing, but the practical things are that I really do try to get enough sleep. I'm a big devotee of getting enough sleep and I really do try to exercise every day.

MS. ORIN: How much is enough sleep?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, you know, six and half, seven hours. And then I do try to exercise every day. But the one cosmic thing is that I have great family and great friends and great faith in God. And in particular, faith in God for me is -- it's not -- people talk about it as a refuge. It's not a refuge. It's so integral to who I am that I can't even imagine kind of breathing without it. And I think it gives to me at least a kind of optimism and a sense of being held up.

MS. ORIN: And you still want to be NFL commissioner?

SECRETARY RICE: I still want to be NFL commissioner. Then I can go to New York and you can come back and I'll tell you what my favorite restaurant is. (Laughter.)

MS. ORIN: Thank you so much.


Released on December 14, 2005

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