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Interview With Maria Bartiromo of CNBC Television

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
The Four Seasons
Palo Alto, California
May 22, 2008

QUESTION: The issue of the day, no doubt about it, Secretary Rice, the price of oil. And we find ourselves really in a curious position here, where so much money is flowing out of the United States and actually into the Middle East, because obviously that is where the oil is. How did we get here?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we need a comprehensive energy policy. And President Bush has been talking about a comprehensive energy policy practically since the first day that he was elected. It's very important that we diversify supply. That means that we have to find ways - energy sources that are not carbon-based. That's why alternative sources of energy, new technologies will be very important. We need to increase our refining capacity. It has been a problem for us to be able to refine. And we also need to have exploration at home.

We obviously need also to conserve. But you can't conserve your way out of the crisis. You really have to have a diversified and comprehensive policy. And that's what the President has tried to do. Unfortunately, I think we've not made the strides that we need to, for instance, in domestic exploration.

QUESTION: You know, it seems like many of the same senators are - who are wanting oil profit taxes on the big oil companies are the same senators who are saying, look, we cannot drill here and we can't go to ANWR and this is off limits, not in my backyard. Why is it that it has been so difficult to reach an agreement in Congress?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know. It is unfortunate that we continue, while we say that we want to be less addicted to foreign oil, which has been one of the President's goals -- we say we want to be less addicted to foreign oil. But then we say to oil producers, you have to increase supply; rather than thinking about what we can do at home to increase supply. And, of course, the ability to use our domestic resources, our domestic sources of oil, would be a very important part of that. Nuclear energy is another clean technology that we should be using and exploring.

We simply have put ourselves into a situation in which it's hard to break our addiction to oil. We're not going to get out of it quickly, I'm afraid, unless - and it's high time to get started on the diversification of our energy resources.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, let me switch gears to talk to you a little about our approach to the Iranian issue. This week, Senator Barack Obama out criticizing the U.S.'s approach to Iran; what do you say to that?

SECRETARY RICE: We have built an international coalition of states led by the United States, the UK, Germany, France, Russia, and China, which is showing Iran that there is a course of cooperation. And if they are not willing to cooperate and give up the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, then there are consequences. And we've passed three Security Council resolutions. Iran's economy is having difficulties. They have increasingly difficult access issues with the international financial system. People, for reputational and investment risk reasons, are not investing in Iran.

QUESTION: Is it not worth trying to open a discussion with the Iranian leader to get these thoughts on the table?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've certainly made every attempt and made it possible to open a dialogue with Iran. But we need to have them suspend their enrichment and reprocessing, because what we don't need to do is to negotiate while they're perfecting the technologies that lead to a nuclear - could lead to a nuclear weapon.

I've said many times, Maria, I'll meet my counterpart anytime, anyplace, anywhere to talk about anything if they will simply suspend. So I think the question isn't why won't we talk to Tehran; the question is why won't Tehran talk to us.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about Iraq, Secretary Rice. What is the status of the progress there in Iraq? I was surprised to see recently that Iraq announces that it wants to buy airplanes because it eventually wants to look for leisure travel to Iraq. What a fascinating story that is. Where are we in Iraq today? Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton want the troops home immediately, Senator McCain obviously on the other side of that. How long will it take before troops can start coming home?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, troops are already coming home from the levels that we needed to surge into Iraq to help to deal with the very precarious security situation there, a situation that has much improved, though still fragile. We are training the Iraqi security forces to be able to take control of their own provinces and to be able to carry out their own security tasks. We're seeing the benefit of that now as they have the lead in securing Sadr City, as they took the lead in securing Basra in the south.

The Iraqi Government is now fighting those militias that everybody knew it was important for them to establish state power and state control throughout Iraq. And what is more, the Iraqis have passed a national reconciliation language, an amnesty law, a law on de-Baathification, a law on provincial powers. They've passed two budgets. And by the way, the budget of Iraq this year is significant. It's $49 billion. And we have told them, and they are doing it, that they need to take more responsibility for their own reconstruction, for their own security costs, and they're doing exactly that.

QUESTION: Ms. Secretary, so often, the issue of America's competitiveness comes up again and again, as we watch this economy grow just about 1 percent, and China grow 12 percent, and India grow 10 percent. The idea or the suggestion that America is less competitive or, worse, less important on the global world stage keeps coming up. Has America lost its edge versus competitors around the world?

SECRETARY RICE: I can count many, many times that people have said that America had lost its competitive edge. You remember them, Maria. We had lost a competitive edge vis--vis Japan. We were a power that was overstretched in the '80s. We were going to converge with the Soviet Union, by the way, in the 1970s. So there have been many premature sentences for America losing its competitive edge.

We're going through a difficult time in the economy. Adjustments to a number of circumstances, including in the housing markets and in the financial markets, that my colleague Hank Paulson and others who have stewardship for this will tell you, will work their way out.

QUESTION: Yes, but the issue of immigration keeps coming up, Ms. Secretary. The point is is that we used to have an open-arms policy where we would let in the best and the brightest people in the world to work in these companies and continue to make this country more competitive. There's an immigration policy. People with Ph.D.s, smart people from international economies can't get visas. What are the answers?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we need a comprehensive immigration reform. We need to make certain that we are able to secure our borders. The State Department plays a role in that in working with our neighbors and also working with the states. Everybody knows that we need people to respect our laws, and that needs to be said first.

But it is also the case that we are a country of immigrants. We are a country that has been tremendously benefited by bringing the people to the United States who want to work hard, people to the United States who believe in the kind of free environment that we have here. They've built this country. And they will continue to build this country if we can remain open. And so the President has long been an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it done in the last session. But I believe that this country is going to have to have enlightened immigration policies if we're going to stay the strong, competitive, open magnet for the best and brightest around the world that we've been.

QUESTION: Which candidate right now has the best policies on immigration in your view?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, Maria, I'm not going to get into the political fray. It's my job right now to go out and represent this great country as its chief diplomat. It's something I love doing because I love America. I believe in America. I think it's the greatest political and social and economic - I think you could almost say "experiment" ever in human history.

QUESTION: Has John McCain approached you to be his running mate?

SECRETARY RICE: Maria, I've said many times that I don't need another job in government. It's time for me to move on. I'm here in the Silicon Valley. It's where, in many ways, I grew up as a professional. I came here as a 25-year-old at first. And I have hard work to do between now and the end of the Administration. But I will have served eight years. I will have served in consequential times. I will have done what I can and it'll be time to give the keys to somebody else.


Released on May 25, 2008

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