Interview With Matthew Swibel of Forbes MagazineSecretary Condoleezza Rice
December 3, 2007
Complete Interview Series with Forbes Magazine:
8.07.2008 - 3.11.2008 - 12.03.2007 - 10.15.2007 - 09.30.2007
QUESTION: I'm trying to collect a string of anecdotes that I can synthesize and use to demonstrate how you manage. Just to recap, we've talked about the importance of early on making some calls and moves to create a civilian diplomatic force in areas of concern, like Pakistan and Afghanistan. We've talked about an audible that was called on the missile shield issue on the eve of your visit to Russia and how it played out with your counterparts. And we've discussed in more general terms the importance of involving multiple stakeholders in a different way this time -- in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Again, there were more general issues that I'd like to maybe follow up on with some of your reports.
So let me start out with the Israeli-Palestinian issue. You've mentioned that even though you don't want to push Israelis and Palestinians beyond where they can go, you have tried to help solve problems that they might have gotten stuck on. And after traveling with you, I'm trying to create something for myself that illustrates what are the larger themes of your management. And you can correct me, but it seems like your – it is especially important to you just to set up the participants as problem solvers of their antagonists.
Can you provide a few specific examples from the Annapolis conference where you did just that?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And if I'm off, then let me know.
SECRETARY RICE: When I say I won't, you know, I'm not going to push them too far, what I really mean is that I -- what I try to do is to find a way to help them see where a solution might be, rather than saying, here's the solution. Sometimes you have to say here's the solution. But most of the time it's more effective to work between the parties and try to see if there's -- if you can get them to a common view of a solution. So what would that have been? -- 36 hours before Annapolis, starting on Sunday afternoon -- I met with the Israeli Foreign Minister at my house. And then I met -- and I had met with the Palestinian negotiators -- two of them -- earlier in the week, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Ahmed Qurei were here earlier. And then I met with the Israeli Foreign Minister. They were stuck on the issue of the joint statement and whether to even have one. And so starting Sunday afternoon, really then having Tzipi Livni and Abu Ala for dinner. And just starting to try to work through why didn't they -- after all those negotiations -- why did they not have a framework that they could see a potentially successful resolution of the joint statement issue. And so that night what we did was to actually come up with a framework -- bringing up four elements that needed to be in a joint statement.
I then met with him again that afternoon after the President had had his two bilaterals on Monday. I met with him in the afternoon and again, working now from those four elements that they needed in the joint statement, has started trying to see who could accept what within those four elements. They negotiated the rest of the day, the rest of the evening. At dinner, I thought we actually had broken through it. Somebody came over and told me that they'd agreed on language about one element of it. As it turned out, they hadn't quite agreed on one element of it. I don't know quite why we didn't get the right report. But I was with Abu Mazen and with Olmert and I talked to them at the table. As a matter of fact I think a couple of participants had commented that, you know, we were -- seemed to be busy at the table. Everybody else was having a perfectly fine evening. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Imagine that.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. And then I came back here with them -- with the negotiators for each side and we stayed here until -- like 11:30 at night again trying to pull it together.
QUESTION: On the four --
SECRETARY RICE: On what now would go into those four elements. You can -- David Welch can carry you through all the detail. I'm just sketching for you what happened. We still didn't really have it solved, when we took off on Tuesday morning. And so on the way over to Annapolis, I said to the President, "Mr. President, you need to do one thing for me. When Abu Mazen comes in, you can call him aside and say you have got to have a joint statement and you've got to say the same to Olmert. And then we'll get it.” We got in the room and the President had said it to each individually and then the President said, "So, why don't we have our foreign ministers go off now and see if we can solve it" and we went off.
But having that kind of blessing then with the three leaders in the room, we went off and we got it solved, brought it back. Poor David Welch was in there trying to put it in the computer really fast to get it printed out. We got it printed out and the President said, "I can't read this." And I said, "Why can't you read this?" He said, "I can't see it. Look at it." The type was about this big. So that was the reason for the reading glasses. And you know it was a question of should we take the time to try to make a big type and all that sort of thing. So that's how it worked. So it was moving from -- they had really gotten hung up on whether to have a joint statement, what would go in a joint statement. And so starting --
QUESTION: I thought the joint statement was something that you -- you know, months ago had said that -- is one of the -- at the very least as an outcome of --
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no. My view is once they've decided to negotiate, this -- the joint statement might have been more trouble than it was worth, but you didn't want anybody to be in a position -- yes, before they -- I think when I last talked to you, they had not yet agreed they were going to actually launch negotiations. Well, once they agreed to launch negotiations, it was pretty clear that neither side was going to want to write down things that would prejudice their position going into negotiations. And then it became a question of what was then the purpose of this joint statement. And that was what we really sort of did was to get a joint statement then that was more of a work plan that attested to their decision to actually launch negotiations and, you know, it worked very well.
QUESTION: So at your place, are you more of a listener or are you making a lot of suggestions?
SECRETARY RICE: I'm --
QUESTION: I'm not trying to paint you as someone who's overpowering --
SECRETARY RICE: No, no. I'm listening and saying did I hear that you could accept this or sounds to me like you could accept this.
QUESTION: Sound like a therapist.
SECRETARY RICE: Or -- that's actually what mediators do. (Inaudible) mediators before. And you know, well, what if we -- what if you were able to accept this and you were able to accept that. So it's that kind of conversation. Sometimes you say, no, I think you really have to accept this. I mean, there's not any room for --
QUESTION: Is there anything you can share with me about a point where you made that marker?
SECRETARY RICE: You mean that you have to accept this? Well, I felt very strongly that the roadmap language had to be incorporated and the joint statement -- couldn't be a separate statement, but David can walk you through why that is important.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you consciously trying to focus the participants instead of re-hashing what their positions are, defending their own positions, look to the other side in trying to say how can I live with that, how can I solve their problem?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, or trying to -- you know sometimes it is taking a different angle on something that's gotten stuck, you know, where actually they're not that far apart, but they think they are. So you need to find a slightly different way of putting it or a slightly different angle or --
QUESTION: Is there something that sticks out that would --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'll tell you one that we actually didn't do at one point. I thought, okay, we'll flip the order on a couple of these, all right because there was one of the players -- I won't say which -- was really stuck on not wanting to end on something that sounded to them not very -- okay, well, we'll switch it. We didn't actually -- even have to do it. But you know, it's -- I think what happens, and they've been negotiating this document for a long time.
QUESTION: How long?
SECRETARY RICE: Forty days or something like that, yeah. But the document kept changing. It kept changing what it was supposed to do. At one point, it was going to be a declaration of principals. Then when it became pretty clear that they were actually going to negotiate, now they couldn’t really do a declaration of principals because that would prejudice negotiating positions going on. And so I think that they kind of lost focus of what this document was supposed to do. And I think what I was able to provide was a place that they could come to common ground on what the document was supposed to do and then to kind of help them structure it based on that new purpose for the document. But mostly it's the -- because they've been so -- doing this for so long, there was already a lot of history. So part of it is to try to prevent people from going back on the history -- well, you remember when I said --
QUESTION: And they mentioned that in their comments.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: Were you encouraging them to -- in their opening comments?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no. I don't mean that history. I mean the negotiating record.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I said this and you knew already that I wasn't prepared to do that and then we rehash that for 30 minutes. Well, you have to try to keep people looking ahead when they're trying to write a document like that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I saw how you discussed the importance of the conference with your counterparts in Egypt and (inaudible) with Jordan. How -- can you tell me a little bit about your presentation on the accommodation of carrots and sticks to other participants at the conference, namely, Saudi Arabia and Syria, as --
SECRETARY RICE: I'm sorry. When?
QUESTION: Before the Annapolis conference.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no. It was --
QUESTION: Just how do we get them to be constructive collaborators?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, actually --
QUESTION: How did you present it to them?
SECRETARY RICE: -- it started all the way back in New York when had the meeting of the --
QUESTION: At the UN --
SECRETARY RICE: -- at the UN with the --
SECRETARY RICE: -- follow-up committee of the Arab League plus the Quartet. At that point, I sort of sketched out what I thought this conference would do, listened to what they wanted to see in this conference and basically knowing what it would take to get each of the parties to come to the table in a constructive mode. And it's like a closed system, I mean, where you're trying to balance the interests of all parties and if you go too far on this one, you get disequilibrium and you have to try to bring it back. And so it's really more – you know it was knowing that for the Arabs some steps on the ground were important first, so we tried to get the Israelis to do the settlement freeze that they announced, recognizing that for the Israelis there had to be strong language about the relationship of the agreement to the roadmap, knowing for the Palestinians the most important thing was that, you know, they would have a way for the United States to judge. So it's having all of these elements. And it's not -- I wouldn't consider it carrots and sticks. I would really in this case more consider it what were the kinds of minimal conditions, minimum conditions that each side had to have in order to come to the table in a constructive way.
QUESTION: And how far in advance of the conference did you know that Syria, for instance, was going to attend?
SECRETARY RICE: Not very far in advance.
QUESTION: The reason I ask --
SECRETARY RICE: We had not really -- I had not really focused very much on trying to get Syria to attend because it was clearly a conference about the Israelis and Palestinians. I focused a lot on making it possible for Syria to attend -- you know, issuing an invitation. They had said when I met with Walid Mualem and he'd said that they wanted an individual invitation, not an invitation through the Arab League. So that was easy, actually, to do. And nobody wanted -- it turned out nobody wanted a collective invitation. They all wanted individual invitations.
I knew that in order for Syria to be able to attend there had to be something about comprehensive peace. Several times we used it in the language. Sean used it in his language. I used it in mine. The President used it in his. But it wasn't until really fairly late in the game -- I think it was actually on Friday or Saturday -- that some more specific -- it came out of the Arab League that they wanted -- everybody wanted a more specific reference to the track itself. And so then we had to work back with all the parties, and so by Saturday late afternoon I had put that in place and it was possible for Syria to come.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about the timing of the -- how the invitations got sent out? It was almost a joke at the end of that trip and it became more so that, you know, there's some kind of public relations strategy behind it or --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there was a diplomatic strategy behind it. Sean was driving -- I was driving Sean crazy. (Laughter.) He would have gladly (inaudible) early.
QUESTION: What was that about from a management perspective?
SECRETARY RICE: I knew that it was going to be difficult to get all of these different parties -- I wouldn't call them conditions, but kind of minimum -- it's almost like getting everybody to a comfort level to attend, right, and I knew it was going to take some time to do that. And I didn't want to -- frankly, didn't want to issue the invitation too soon and have weeks and weeks of speculation about what would happen at the meeting. Better to issue it, have people say yes and then be there, because we had taken a decision to announce the conference before we had met all the various interests that everybody had in order to get everybody there.
QUESTION: And that was a joint decision or was it something --
SECRETARY RICE: No, it was an American decision. It was an American decision.
QUESTION: I meant a joint decision between you and the President?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
SECRETARY RICE: Because -- in July. Because the question was -- more normally, you would do it this way: You would go around and get everybody to say they were going to come.
SECRETARY RICE: And then you'd announce --
SECRETARY RICE: But I didn't think and the President didn't think that we could generate enough momentum that way to get everybody to make the choices that they were going to need to start making and start getting themselves in a position to decide to come if we did it that way. So we decided to reverse it and announce the conference and then do the diplomacy, and that's a bit of a high-wire act. And so what you don't want to do is then send invitations without people in a position to say yes, so we sent the invitation when I thought people were in a position to say yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me switch gears for a second. One of the things I'm interested in exploring in this story is, for lack of a better term -- it sounds cliché, but crisis management. Really, it's division of resources and intellectual capacity, frankly. In the month since we've been together, Turkey and the PKK, Musharraf and Bhutto, Blackwater investigations, even a tiny country I visited, Georgia, you know, had a --
SECRETARY RICE: And we were planning Annapolis --
SECRETARY RICE: -- at the same time. Did you add Lebanon?
QUESTION: Yeah, add Lebanon. Is that what you said?
SECRETARY RICE: Lebanon. The presidency, yeah.
QUESTION: Right. So --
SECRETARY RICE: Because I spent as much time on Lebanon over the weekend, Thanksgiving, as I did on --
QUESTION: Really? Can you tell me a little bit about that?
SECRETARY RICE: No, it's just that, you know, they're trying to elect a president. So lots --
QUESTION: Well, but what took your time?
SECRETARY RICE: Dealing with -- how to give our allies very strong support, let our allies know we support them in whatever -- making sure that I -- we all knew exactly what was going on on the ground in Lebanon, that we were sending the right signals. I probably talked -- I talked to four Lebanese leaders to say --
QUESTION: And there were a lot of foreign leaders.
SECRETARY RICE: A lot of foreign leaders involved. The French -- we had -- the French were there. The Italians were there. The Spanish were there. So lots of conversations with them. So -- the Egyptians have been there. The Saudis, of course, are major actors in Lebanon.
SECRETARY RICE: We had Istanbul. We've had the statement of the Syrians, you know. So yeah, Lebanon was taking a lot of time, in addition to those other situations.
QUESTION: So you know, of course, my editor wants to know your magic sauce. You know, how do you compartmentalize it? I mean, maybe you could talk a little bit about that, but also share with me -- you know, was there a day where you were -- you know, you had had it, you could not handle any more?
SECRETARY RICE: No --
QUESTION: No, of course not.
SECRETARY RICE: -- I can't afford to do that. Look, I can't afford to do that. But the fact that --
QUESTION: Well, what's your game plan?
SECRETARY RICE: The Georgia thing was a bit of a surprise, kind of out of left field, you know, because we knew there was -- the state of emergency was a bit -- this is -- the only way you can keep all those balls in the air is to have trusted agents on each of them. And for instance, on Georgia I knew Matt Bryza was --you know, so I had to make sure and we had to work to make sure that he was -- he knew what message he was going to carry. I was in reserve to make phone calls if I needed to, but he was managing that well. He and Dan Fried and Nick Burns.
Then there was Pakistan. We had -- we actually had several discussions at the highest levels about Pakistan, but I talked to our Ambassador a couple times a day, at least. But then John Negroponte was on his way out so it was making sure that -- you know, and John was going to out kind of an as envoy to deal with that issue.
And of course, David Welch and I were working the conference. I think I -- somebody told me I made 50 phone calls to him over Thanksgiving weekend. So that's how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend. And probably an additional 50 leaders and various people. I mean, it was a really busy Thanksgiving.
But that's how you do it. You have -- you can't become your own action officer. You have to have trusted people. But then you have to be constantly on top of it and checking in and making sure that there isn't something you can do to advance it. So that's how I --
QUESTION: Now, were you happy with the outcome from Mr. Negroponte's visit?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
SECRETARY RICE: Because things don't happen -- you don't walk out of a meeting and have the Pakistanis say, oh yeah, we're going to everything. It's not the way it works. And sometimes I do think in the press there is this kind of instant gratification. You know, oh well, you didn't get the deal that day. Well, look at what's happened since John was there. Musharraf has taken off his uniform. They've affirmed the date for elections and they've said that the date that they're going to end the state of emergency.
So -- and by the way, I've been working Iraq a fair amount during this period of time, too, because I have an envoy, David Satterfield, out working the provincial powers and UN Security Council resolution issues, and I have Reuben Jeffery out working the oil law. So I've been working with them quite a bit, too.
QUESTION: Can you --
SECRETARY RICE: So yeah, you have to -- but anybody who has managed a big enterprise -- maybe -- anybody who's managed a big enterprise would recognize that this is how you do it. I admit that because they are matters of kind of international stability and kind of war and peace, they have a little bit -- also a different character.
QUESTION: From the outside looking in, you know, one might assume that your ability to trust in certain areas might have been shaken a little bit by the whole Blackwater thing, right, because there you delegated responsibility?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, I didn't delegate responsibility. An organization has a structure to it, right?
SECRETARY RICE: And clearly, the Secretary of State isn't going to run every thing that's going on in the organization. On Blackwater, we just didn't have the right systems in place for early warning on what was going on, and so that's what we've gone back to do. And again, John and Gordon England in Defense kind of took the lead on getting the Defense -- of getting the coordination between Defense and State better. And you know, we took some -- I took an early step to get Pat Kennedy to lead that effort with this outside panel. So that's simply a part of management. Sometimes, unfortunately, there are things that slip past the management structure, and that was one of them.
QUESTION: Well, how much time --
SECRETARY RICE: The others that have been cited -- not (inaudible) embassy compound (inaudible) -- changes in program happen as a matter of -- as a matter of kind of structure. You -- but this one -- this one was not properly -- properly caught by the management structure.
QUESTION: Okay. And would -- but that didn't -- you're saying that doesn't equal you getting -- you losing any confidence in the management structure?
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I was very clear that I wanted accountability for where in the management structure that came apart, and that's how I dealt with it. But you have to -- you have to -- you can't then start to try to micromanage every issue yourself. That's -- you have to know when to intervene and when not to. What I try to have is signals, early warning signals that will let me know when something's -- or let John know -- one of us
-- when something's not right. And in that case, we didn't have them.
QUESTION: And you mentioned your surprise that Georgia came out of left field.
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, the state of emergency. Not that -- I had been following what was going on in Georgia, the demonstrations in the streets and so forth. But the state of emergency seemed outsized for what was going on in the streets, and so we had to deal with that.
QUESTION: It seems like -- is it all in the balance of, you know, sticking with it, whether it's at your house, at a specific negotiation or a large issue --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- like Blackwater --
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And yet moving on, there's been a lot of media reports about Annapolis, you know, news analysis pieces that describe you as a manager who is very straightforward and clearly articulates the position and then moves on to the next thing, not in a careless way but that's -- you know, you're very forward-moving.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you --
QUESTION: How do you balance, you know, the --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I've had two or three follow-up conversations about next steps on Annapolis. David Welch was in here just before you going through what are the four or five things that we now need to make sure happen between now and December 12th when the Palestinians and Israelis meet, between now and December 17th when you have the meeting in Paris. But that's -- it now becomes -- for a while, David is going to have to carry the ball on the follow-up, but we've established now a set of steps that he's going to take to follow up. And we -- I do that with him and then he'll carry out that follow-up.
QUESTION: So as --
SECRETARY RICE: So it's not moving on to the next thing, although I now have to go to --
SECRETARY RICE: Africa and then on to Europe and for me, a kind of looming big issue over the next month or so will be Kosovo. So yeah, I do have to move on, but it's not as if I haven't been following Kosovo. It's a little hard to describe, but I guess what I try to do is I try to sit with the people who are going to manage issues or set the direction and then I expect they're going to carry out the direction until there's a need for either a change in direction or for me to try to intervene to help push things in a particular direction.
QUESTION: Okay. And speaking of things you're going to revisit, have you had any feedback on the proposals that the experts were going to consider in Russia regarding the missile shield?
SECRETARY RICE: Dan Fried has been working the CFE proposal and we've just recently been working with the Russians. I think we'll send a delegation pretty soon.
QUESTION: And that's -- the Russians, they don't use that negotiation as any kind of leverage with the Israeli-Palestinian --
SECRETARY RICE: (Shaking head negatively.)
SECRETARY RICE: No, the Israeli-Palestinian thing, we have a very good relationship with the Russians. Look, I won't say the issues aren't -- those issues not so much -- I wouldn't say that missile defense and CFE and kind of European security -- that there aren't some soft linkages there, but that's not how it presents itself. You just know that there's a kind of general atmosphere that you're working with.
QUESTION: One of the things that came out of Annapolis is the articulation by both leaders that there are painful choices ahead. Have you offered any suggestions about how to articulate those painful choices to the respective powers?
SECRETARY RICE: No, they all know what they are and what they're doing is they're getting ready to go into their populations and talk about those painful choices. They don't need my help in that. They know how to do that. They know what it is and they know how to --
QUESTION: So what do you think they need your help on most?
SECRETARY RICE: I think that they -- it's easy to get ground down in the detail or -- and lose sight of what it is you're trying to do, like with the joint statement, you know, what word to use, whether or not the word "immediately" should appear, as opposed to what it is you're trying to do. And sometimes, I think that when anybody's negotiating -- it happens to me when you're negotiating -- you don't always hear the other side. You're listening, but you don't necessarily hear and --
QUESTION: Can you give me an example of that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said, you can have this --
QUESTION: I meant a personal example where you were --
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I can't think of one right off the top of my head, but I'm sure -- you know I know that they're there, where you just don't quite hear what the other party is really saying and sometimes, that's where a third party is helpful.
QUESTION: So specifically, though, are there any examples from the weekend that you could give me?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that they weren't hearing each other about what the joint statement had become. I think they had come to the conclusion that it couldn't prejudice either side's negotiating position and it couldn't cause a flare-up for either side within their respective coalitions. But I don't think they were hearing each other on then what should it be. And that's why the time, I think, that we spent that night over dinner where, you know, we had all agreed we weren't going to negotiate language, we weren't going to sit down and try to -- we're going to step back and talk about what this document might do.
QUESTION: So, do you see that as just prolonging the misery or does it minimize it down the road?
SECRETARY RICE: Do you mean the painful choices?
QUESTION: Well, also -- we're not going to talk about language now, but at some point, language has to be --
SECRETARY RICE: Sometimes, if you start talking about language rather than talking about what it is you're trying to do, you just grind down. You talk first about what it is you're trying to do and what might be the structure in which you do it. And sometimes, it really is language. I mean, sometimes, it -- and part of it is knowing the difference. Is it really that word "immediately" that means something to this side that is unacceptable? Sometimes, it's that. But sometimes, the word "immediately" really doesn't matter. It's just that they've lost sight of what it is.
QUESTION: The reason I asked about how do you help the Palestinians, let's say, articulate the painful choices because the role of Hamas -- there's a part of the population that, for better or worse, is under rule of people who weren't at the conference.
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
QUESTION: So that's sort of what I was getting at with that kind of question. And let me be clear; what kind of advice have you offered or how do you see Hamas coming into the fold?
SECRETARY RICE: I think you have to focus right now on giving -- or helping Abu Mazen to establish the strongest hand, strongest possible hand, good events on the ground, a successful Palestinian donors conference, launching of negotiations in which he can only be the agent because Hamas can't negotiate with Israel, and just give him the strongest possible hand. And then --
QUESTION: And everything else will follow?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know, but we will -- but so much of diplomacy is creating conditions in which things can happen.
SECRETARY RICE: All right? Now you are not going to have an answer for Hamas unless Abu Mazen and the PA are a lot stronger than they are now, just in terms of their capacity to deliver for the Palestinian people, just in terms of the Palestinian people looking to them for answers not to (inaudible) Hamas. So you first have to work to create that set of conditions. And then that will create its own dynamic and you will see, at that point, what the situation is with Hamas.
QUESTION: Okay. And sort of how it's played out with the Annapolis conference, I mean, creating the conditions for it.
Did you get to have Thanksgiving dinner?
SECRETARY RICE: I went out to Camp David and I was a terrible guest because I was always running to the telephone while I was there -- no, it was nice. The President and the First Lady were nice enough to invite me and my aunt and a couple friends up and they all had a good time, my aunt and my friends. (Laughter.) I had a great time; it just was busy, really busy.
QUESTION: Yeah, I can tell you I've interviewed CEOs of multibillion dollar corporations and I would say that what's on your plate is about the most I've seen. So I think there's also a difference. You know, when you're running a commercial enterprise, you have various stakeholders who also have their own expectations, you know, shareholders, employees, et cetera. You know, there should -- only one person you're reporting to, an ultimate stakeholder. So it's much different in that way.
SECRETARY RICE: It is, but remember, when I was Provost of Stanford and yes, on any given day, there might be something that's an overwhelming crisis, all right, that you've got to stop and focus just on that. That can happen on any given day. You know, I remember -- a huge crisis in the medical school all about a human subjects problem that had arisen and you know, there you get everything -- and yeah, you focus real hard on that.
But this just happens to be a time in international politics where there are just a lot of very critical issues, a lot of very critical things going on. It is true that probably in quieter times any one of these would have been considered something that you focused on full time.
QUESTION: Yeah, that's --
SECRETARY RICE: You know, the problem in Pakistan or the problem in Lebanon or --
SECRETARY RICE: -- the peace conference or -- you know, we haven't even -- or, you know, getting the Iraqis to take advantage of this lull in the violence or what's really going on in Afghanistan, how are we going to, you know, deal with the issues in Afghanistan. Yeah, on any given -- in any given time before, any one of those would have. And you know, and it doesn't -- it doesn't speak to the fact that I've got a major, you know, kind of negotiation going on with the North Koreans and the six-party talks; you know, we've got Iran.
Yeah, it's just that kind of time, but you have to have people that you trust and who are good and work to make sure that those directions -- it helps enormously to have a seasoned, steady person like John Negroponte, who --
QUESTION: I'm speaking with him on Thursday.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, who can take an issue and go do it. That was what I was looking for in a Deputy. You know, there have been, from time to time -- not under Powell, because Rich Armitage was a very capable diplomat -- but there have been times when people thought, all right, well, I'll just get somebody to manage the building, you know, deal with the building issues like the embassy compound or Blackwater or the management side and then that leaves free the Secretary to do the diplomacy.
In a time like this, you really can't afford that. I mean, John has, in the last two weeks, done Pakistan, he went and represented us at a very important meeting in Mali, but then he's been the envoy to Pakistan, he's just been to Iraq. You know, he takes -- he really is able to take a big diplomatic -- be a big diplomatic presence.
MR. MCCORMACK: I was just thinking about the one day I know you (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: One day that brought all of -- a lot of these things together was the Istanbul conference -- that Monday. We were there to talk about Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, that's right, the Iraq neighbors conference.
MR. MCCORMACK: So we were there to talk about Iraq neighbors and – neighbors’ conference and work with the Iraqis, Blackwater was hanging over that --
SECRETARY RICE: That's right, that's right.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- in a big way.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, so I was trying to get that structured, talking to John about getting that team structured to go out.
MR. MCCORMACK: Lebanon, you had a meeting afterwards about --
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- getting the Middle East peace conference going.
SECRETARY RICE: Peace process --
MR. MCCORMACK: You had a separate meeting with Saud Al Faisal.
SECRETARY RICE: Saud Al Faisal, right.
MR. MCCORMACK: And then on top of it all --
SECRETARY RICE: And the Syrians.
MR. MCCORMACK: The Syrian --
SECRETARY RICE: Right, right.
MR. MCCORMACK: I forgot, yeah.
SECRETARY RICE: Right, right.
MR. MCCORMACK: And then number six, that was the day Musharraf announced --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- the state of emergency.
SECRETARY RICE: The state of emergency.
MR. MCCORMACK: So that was all in --
QUESTION: You knew that was coming?
SECRETARY RICE: Just shortly before, hours before. So yeah --
MR. MCCORMACK: So (inaudible), one day.
SECRETARY RICE: And that happened all in one day. And it's just the way it is right now. You know, it's kind of -- and you try not to lose sight of other things. It's really important, you know, not to lose sight of -- I've been very active in trying to get the FTAs done for Peru and Colombia and to see -- don't -- can't afford to lose sight of that.
QUESTION: I didn't mention legacy once.
SECRETARY RICE: You didn't. Good. (Laughter.)
Released on August 29, 2008