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Interview With Hank Plante of KPIX-CBS TV

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Stanford Park Hotel
Menlo Park, California
May 23, 2008

QUESTION: Really great to see you again.

SECRETARY RICE: It's good to see you too.

QUESTION: Let me start with kind of a critical question and, you know, I never mean this personally. But I wonder how you look back at your tenure now as you wrap things up. There are a lot of critics of how you handle foreign policy from Iraq to Afghanistan to the oil-producing nations.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me just say to fellow Californians, of course, we're all watching with some alarm and concern what's going on in the Santa Cruz Mountain. And to all who are affected by that, I just want to send my best wishes and hopes for the best there and to all the brave people who are trying to fight those fires. We greatly appreciate it.

First of all, I've still got several months to go here. And I've got a lot of work to do on trying to help the Palestinians finally get the state that they deserve, helping the Iraqis and the Afghans. We're doing some work on the denuclearization of North Korea. So there's still a lot of work to do.

But I'm very pleased with what we've been able to accomplish in liberating 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, in helping to bring to the Middle East an agenda for democratization, in supporting Lebanon, how difficult it's been, but Syrian forces are out of Lebanon and that's a major step forward, and in the progress that we're making toward, I believe, an agreement perhaps by the end of year to establish a Palestinian state.

You add to that extraordinary relations with countries like India and China, our alliances in Japan and South Korea, quadrupling foreign assistance for the entire international community, I think we've done pretty well.

QUESTION: But there are critics of your Administration who think that as far as foreign policy, your Administration has been disastrous, from Iraq to the oil-producing nations, to Israel and Palestine.

SECRETARY RICE: There are always critics, and there will be critics of any administration at any time. This has been a transformative time. And in transformative times, I would just warn in the following way: A state's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same. And if I look at where Iraq was in 2003, yes, it's a very difficult journey. But I'm really glad Saddam Hussein is gone. And I think the Iraqis are now starting to build a decent and more stable state. We helped to overthrow the Taliban. It's a really good thing that they're gone and the Afghan people have a chance to elect for the second time, democratically, a president.

We have a chance to help the Palestinians, a democratic Palestinian leadership rather than the corrupt leadership of Yasser Arafat, who, by the way, turned his back on a peace deal at the end of the Clinton Administration. We have a chance to get the Palestinians and the Israelis to an agreement. And again, in places like Asia, where we have the strongest relationships ever. And we've done it in the context of a dramatic set of changes in the world as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

QUESTION: President Bush only opened negotiations with the Israelis and the Palestinians in Annapolis last November, in a broad way. A lot of people think that was way too late in his term.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we've been working with the Palestinians and the Israelis going back quite a long time, really into 2006, to get to the Annapolis process. But there's a view somehow that when we came in, in 2001, there was a peace process to pick up and continue. The peace process was dead as a doornail in 2001. Yasser Arafat had walked away despite the very good efforts of the Clinton Administration, from a potential deal. He had launched the second intifada with suicide bombs going off in Israeli cities every week. Ariel Sharon had been elected the Prime Minister of Israel, not to bring a peace deal, but to bring security to Israel. That was not an auspicious time for a peace process.

And what we have done is we slowly helped to rebuild confidence between the parties. We've helped to give the Israelis enough confidence that now a wide variety of Israelis actually believe in a two-state solution. That was not the case in 2001. We have brought Arab states into the process. Saudi Arabia attended the Annapolis conference for the first time - for the first time on its own foot. So we have rebuilt the peace process. It simply wasn't there in 2001.

QUESTION: When it comes to Iraq, do you feel any regret or even guilt about what you're leaving for the next president?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, quite the contrary. I am very glad that we helped the Iraqis overthrow Saddam Hussein. And that it is going to be a decent society. It's going to be a society in which Iraqis finally are able to resolve their differences through politics, not by repression or by violence.

It's very tough, I'll tell you. It's much tougher than I ever thought it would be. I'd be the first to say that. And I'm sure we've made many mistakes. And the Iraqis have made many mistakes. But, you know, democracy is hard and it's especially hard when you've known nothing but tyranny. And now, you have an Iraqi Government with an army fighting against the militias and taking back the streets of Basra and the streets of Sadr City. You have an Iraqi Government that has passed its amnesty law and its provincial powers law and its elections law and has passed two budgets, by the way.

The U.S. Government thinks the U.S. Congress has control of passing a budget. The Iraqis have done that. And I sat with provincial councils as they try to solve their differences by politics, not by violence and not by tyranny.

The United States will stand in good standing history for having given the Iraqi people that chance.

QUESTION: President Bush recently said talking with our enemies is appeasement. You spend your whole life doing diplomacy. Isn't that the same thing? You talk to people you don't like.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do talk to people I don't like. But, first of all, let's be clear on what the President said. The President talked about not appeasing terrorists. We don't talk to Hezbollah and Hamas and al-Qaida. There's nothing to talk to them about. But we do talk to countries with which we have differences. We try to set the right conditions before we do it, because if you don't, then you're just talking. And diplomacy's actually not just talking. It's trying to achieve results.

So within the context of the six parties - China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States - we have been able to talk to North Korea and we're making progress. Within the context of the P-5+1 - Germany, Great Britain, France, the United States, Russia, and China - we have offered to talk to Tehran if they will simply do what three Security Council resolutions demand: suspend their enrichment and reprocessing.

Now, the really interesting question isn't why won't we talk to Tehran. It's why won't Tehran talk to us. And by the way, I've met my Syrian counterpart a couple times.

QUESTION: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the next president, whoever he or she is?

SECRETARY RICE: I think the first challenge is to recognize that we're in a generational struggle, not one that is going to end on our watch or probably the next several watches of American presidents. It's going to take sustained attention to keeping together the law enforcement and intelligence and military coalitions against terrorism. The truth of the matter is that they only have to be right once and we have to be right a hundred percent of the time. So you can never be certain. I'm sure they are plotting and planning the next attack. I know that.

QUESTION: You do know that?

SECRETARY RICE: I do know that, absolutely. We read this every day. We read about the attacks that are being plotted and planned around the world. And that's why you have to keep a focus on disruption. You have to stop them before they attack or thousands of innocent people die.

We also - or the next American president is going to have a continuing challenge of trying to help the people of the Middle East build a more decent, prosperous, and democratic Middle East. The idea that somehow, the Middle East was stable and we disturbed it is simply belied by the fact that Saddam Hussein drew us into war twice in the 1990s, by the fact that you had Syrian forces occupying Lebanon, by the fact that you had authoritarian regimes that left so little space for anything that would be decent politics, that -- there was politics going on, but it was going on in the radical mosques. And so you produced the Islamists and the extremists and, most importantly, al-Qaida.

So the long-term commitment to the Middle East, and to the people of Iraq, and to the people of Palestine, and to the people of Israel, and to the people of the entire region is going to be the decisive issue and the decisive question for America in the same way that the commitment of the United States to the people of Eastern Europe and the people of Russia was decisive in the Cold War.

QUESTION: And finally, let me ask you about your own future. Some people would like to see you on the ticket with John McCain as Vice President. What do you think?

SECRETARY RICE: I think not. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You think not?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I think not. No, look, I think I've done my part. I will have served for eight years. I was with Governor Bush for a year before that. And it's time to move on. We've been through a lot of challenges. For me, in some ways, and those of us who were there on September 11th, every day is September 12th and -- it's time to do something else.

QUESTION: You wouldn't turn the vice presidency?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I'm not going to - first of all, John McCain will find a terrific running mate. There are lots of great options. But it simply isn't for me and I would advise that I come back.

QUESTION: Do you want to come back to the Bay Area?

SECRETARY RICE: I will come back to the Bay Area. I am on leave, actually, from Stanford and I'm likely to come back. The issue for me will be to have a little time to stand back and reflect on what we've done, on where American foreign policy is and where it's going, and for me to have a little time to write what I would like to be a pretty serious book about American foreign policy.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.



Released on May 25, 2008

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