Interview With Steve Scully of C-SPANSecretary Condoleezza Rice
November 10, 2008
QUESTION: Secretary of State Rice, how does the world view America?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the world views America still, I think, as a place where you can be anybody and do anything, where it doesn’t matter where you came from; it matters where you’re going. I think that’s why there was such great interest in our recent election, because it talked about overcoming old wounds. And I think most of the world really understands that America is a place that it doesn’t matter what your racial background, your national background, your ethnic background, your religious background – that’s why so many people seek to come here.
Of course, America is always viewed also as very powerful -- economically, military. And sometimes, because America has to do difficult things that no one else will do, our policies are not very popular. But the American ideal is overwhelmingly popular in the world.
QUESTION: Forty-five years ago you were in Birmingham –
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: September, 1963. Explain that moment in your life and where we are 45 years later.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I was a child in Birmingham, Alabama, and in 1963, which had been a very, very violent year, with police dogs in the park that Bull Connor had sicced on innocent protesters, or the constant bombings that were in neighborhoods like my own neighborhood in Birmingham, a nice, middle-class neighborhood that was shattered by bombings every several weeks, and then you had the events at 16th Street Baptist Church. And I remember very well being at church, at my father’s church which was just down the street, Westminster Presbyterian, and there was a kind of rumble. And everyone wondered what it was. It was long before cell phones, of course. But somehow the word began to spread that there had been a bombing at the church. And as it became clear that little girls had died in that church, I think the terror, really homegrown terrorism, had come to Birmingham in a very dramatic way. And Denise McNair, one of the little girls that was killed in that church, had been a friend of mine, a kindergarten friend of mine, and it’s hard to believe that that Birmingham gave way, first of all, that the successor to Bull Connor is actually a black woman, it’s hard to believe. But over time, of course, America has begun to heal her – her racial wounds, and that culminated in the election of Barack Obama.
QUESTION: What were you personally thinking, if you saw Barack Obama on that stage in Grant Park in Chicago or saw him as the President-elect this past week?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I made the statement shortly after the election that I was just enormously proud of Americans for I think setting race aside. I think what you really saw here was that race is no longer the factor in American identity and American life, and that’s a huge step forward.
I’ve just been also in the Middle East, and there it was seen that a country that had such deep racial divisions – I’ve said myself that America had a birth defect, slavery – and that we could overcome that and that you could have, of course, this really quantum leap to a black – the election of the first African American president, but really something that’s been going on a while. When you look at American life now, you see that America has had a black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (inaudible) in Colin Powell, back-to-back black Secretaries of State; Tiger Woods, probably the most recognizable athlete; Oprah Winfrey, someone who transcends race in many ways, as the most popular figure. I think what is being seen around the world is that old wounds can be overcome. And in a world where difference is still a license to kill, that’s an extremely important message.
QUESTION: I want to come back to that point, but for you personally, have you ever felt racism?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama; it was hard not to feel racism. Whether it was going into a store and hearing my mother tell the store clerk, well, no, she’s not going to try that dress on in a storeroom. If she can’t try it on in the fitting room like all little girls do, then we won’t buy that dress. Or shortly after the Civil Rights Act had passed in 1964, going through a hamburger stand and being given a hamburger that was all onions.
Of course racism was a daily companion in Birmingham. But what was remarkable was that I had parents who refused to let it become crippling. They refused to let me be bitter. They refused to let me use it as an excuse, and they somehow managed to send the message that racism was somebody else’s problem, not mine.
QUESTION: So with the election of Barack Obama and how we’re viewed around the world, what do you think is going to change, if anything?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, like every President, I’m sure that soon-to-be-President Obama will defend American interests, and sometimes that will be popular and sometimes it won’t. But it is very clear that the message of America as a place that has overcome its wounds, America as a place where race didn’t matter in preventing the election of the first African America President; these are extremely important messages.
QUESTION: You’re part of this transition process. President Bush has been saying for the last couple of months that he’s putting a premium on making this a smooth transition.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: You were part of the transition back in 2000, 2001.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What’s different?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it was harder in 2002, 2001. First of all, we had a very collapsed period of time. You have to remember that there was the recount in Florida. That took an extended period of time. I think it was also the case that it was not recognized as a wartime transition, as transition when – on the national security side, the stakes are very high. And it was pre-9/11. And for all of those reasons, the transition was different.
I want to be very clear. My predecessor, Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor, was helpful and I don’t think we had problems in our transition. But a more structured transition now is important because America can’t afford to miss a beat in terms of fighting these terrorists around the world, in terms of maintaining the momentum toward a stable Iraq that has been established, in terms of working with this young, democratic Pakistani Government on it’s economic difficulties and also on fighting militancy, on sustaining the work with the Afghan Government that every day faces these terrorists on its territory; we have troops at war, we have men and women both in uniform and civilians who are on the front lines, and they can’t afford that there’s any slip between the teams that are – the team that is coming in and the team that is leaving. And President Bush has made very clear that all of us, at the cabinet level on down, are to do everything that we can to make sure that our counterparts are ready to take over on day one. And I’m devoted to that. The Department’s devoted to that. We’ve been spending a lot of time on transition. In fact, we have a management retreat every year, and we devoted this year’s management retreat in October to the questions of transition.
QUESTION: So let me follow up on the mechanics of this transition for you personally and for this Department.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: How do you do it? What’s involved?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have a transition team that has been working for some time. It is headed by two very senior career people: Bill Burns, who is the highest ranking career person in the Department, he’s the Under Secretary for Political Affairs; and on the management side, the Under Secretary for Management Affairs, Pat Kennedy. They are making certain that there is appropriate space, appropriate transition briefings, that all of the important papers, where we are on everything, will be handed off. I expect when my successor is named to spend a lot of time talking about what we have done, what remains to be done.
Obviously, these are choices of policy that will be made by the new team, but I want to be sure that they know what I know about where we stand and what the challenges are.
QUESTION: You served, obviously, as Secretary of State.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: You’ve worked with a number of Secretaries of State.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What qualities do you think Barack Obama should look for in filling this position?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I’m sure he will make a fine choice. There are a lot of terrific foreign policy professionals and foreign policy people on the political side out there.
The one thing we have on the foreign policy side is we have a kind of continuous conversation among those who are in the foreign policy community, whether they come from the Democratic side or from the Republican side. There are all kinds of fora and nongovernmental organizations, organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations, where many of us see each other on a regular basis. And so there’s a community of foreign policy professionals and foreign policy-interested people who will know these issues from day one.
I’m also certain that whoever’s Secretary of State is going to know exactly what I know now. And what George Schultz, my great mentor and friend who was Secretary of State himself told me, he said, being Secretary of State is the greatest job in government. Now, he was someone who had to know that, because he’d been Secretary of Treasury, he’d been OMB, he’d been Secretary of Labor. And he said you’re going to find that, because there’s nothing like representing this country abroad and representing what America stands for. And I love this country, and I know that whoever becomes Secretary of State is going to love this country. And that’s the first and most important qualification.
You have to love America. You have to understand its great strengths. You have to understand its long history and its weaknesses and its downsides as well. I used to love to go to places like Brazil, where you have another great multi-ethnic democracy, and talk about the long journey we’ve made, to talk about the fact in places that are just starting to look to a democratic future that we don’t promote and talk about democracy because we think ourselves perfect, but because we know how imperfect we’ve been as a democracy. And we know it’s hard. And we know that particularly making multi-ethnic democracy work is really hard. And so caring about those values and sustaining as a core value of our foreign policy that America cannot be neutral when it comes to democracy.
There aren’t competing systems of, sort of, all of them are okay. There’s only one for which – that is really in line with human dignity and with human aspiration, and that’s democracy. And if you defend that, you’re going to be okay.
QUESTION: But as you know, speaking of our democracy, we’re in the Ben Franklin Room, and one of his quotes is that we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall hang separately.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: And yet during the last eight years of this Administration, a lot of bitterness, a lot of divisiveness on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. How do you deal with that? How should the next President deal with that?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think that it isn’t the last eight years. I think you’ve had – really, it’s – it maybe goes to the end of the cold war when we had such great unity. Yes, changes in differences and tactics, but such great unity about the defeat of communism as the core principle. And when communism was defeated, I think we looked around and all of a sudden there wasn’t that common thread holding –particularly on the foreign policy side – together the Democrats of Scoop Jackson, for interest, with the Republicans of Ronald Reagan who would have viewed communism very similarly. And so I think we’ve had to rebuild that.
But if you really look now at the foreign policy challenges, I think there’s a lot of consistent -- consistency of view, a lot of common vision of an America that can sustain our friends and that can keep our enemies at bay. There may be tactical differences – do you talk to these people, do you not talk to those people? But I’d be very surprised if there is anyone who believes that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is a good idea. In fact, President-elect Obama just made that very clear to the Iranians. I’m quite certain that there’s an understanding that we need to stand by the new democracies that have been borne in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Lebanon, that our good friend Israel in the Middle East deserves our support because we share values and we share an abiding interest in Israel’s security in the Middle East.
I can go on and on. I believe we’ll sustain – I hope we’ll sustain, and I believe we will, our commitment to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. The President’s extraordinary record on doubling foreign assistance for Latin America, quadrupling it for Africa, tripling it worldwide after a long time when it was flat, on assisting – insisting that if American dollars are going to be spent, taxpayer dollars are going to be spent, they’ll be spent for governments that fight corruption and invest in their people and have democratic impulses, believing very strongly that so much has been given to us that we have to be willing to help those who are fighting the scourge of AIDS or the mosquito bite that needlessly kills a child in Africa. Those are going to unite us as principles.
I hope there will be an early desire to go back to something that President Bush pushed very strongly, and we weren’t able to do, immigration reform. This country needs comprehensive immigration reform. It’s the core of who we are. So there’s a huge agenda out there that we can unite around, and I believe that we will. But we sometimes forget that the sharpness of our politics isn’t an artifact of the last eight years. It goes back in our history a long ways, maybe even to our founding.
QUESTION: But as you know, even overseas, some of that sharpness, some of that derision has been aimed at George W. Bush. So despite all of the accomplishments that you just outlined, why is he, in some parts of the world, detested?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President had to do some very difficult things. Look, we came out of September 11th having to make a choice about how we were going to defend this country. Were we going to stay with a strategy that essentially considered terrorism a law enforcement problem, or were we going to go to war against them? And in some quarters, it wasn’t popular to talk in the terms and act in the manner in which we – at recognizing that we were at war with these people. And yes, we had to do some very tough things.
But you know, I think I’ve found over the years, particularly in these most recent years, that much of that rancor is gone. We have outstanding relations with our European allies now. When I go to a NATO meeting, it is about the incredible fact that NATO is fighting together in Afghanistan. Yes, we’d like to see more contribution here. Yes, there are national caveats there that are constraining. But imagine NATO fighting in Afghanistan as its core mission.
When I go to Europe, I no longer see any difference in the view that a stable and secure Iraq is in everybody’s interest, and that an Iraq that is democratic and in which Saddam Hussein, that brutal monster that caused three wars in the region, including dragging us in twice, that used – who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, that an Iraq that is democratic and friendly to the West is better for the Middle East. I don’t see much disagreement about that.
I see no disagreement that Iran has to be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon. And on the Middle East, I’ve never seen greater harmony behind the Annapolis process as the basis on which a two-state solution will eventually come into being.
And so whatever we went through in the difficult days of 2003, 2004 it would be a mistake to think that we have problematic relations with our allies. We simply don’t. We may not agree on everything, but the transatlantic relationship is in very, very good shape. And you can even say that more so for our core relations in places like Japan and South Korea and India and, indeed, China.
QUESTION: Will you be writing a book on all of your experiences?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have several that I’d like to write. I’m – you know, I’m an academic by heart, and so writing books is part of what I do. I do want to write a book about American foreign policy in the post-9/11 period and how its structure and epicenter has changed.
I want to write a book about my dad and my mother as well, because I had parents who were educational evangelists. And if I am concerned about one core issue for America, we’ll get through the many challenges and difficulties that we have, but the state of education in this country is a challenge that we better meet, and we’d better meet it soon.
I’ve taken to calling our crisis in education, particularly public education, our greatest national security challenge, because I do know that if we don’t find a way to make sure that our children are well educated, if we are not confident in our ability to compete, we’re going to turn inward, we are going to protect. And if America turns inward and protects, if America is not a strong voice for free trade and open markets, then we will – there will be no free trade and open markets.
And it goes, too, to what you asked a little earlier. America is admired because people believe this is a place that you can – if you have to crawl across the desert to make five dollars not fifty cents, you can do it. Or at the high end, if you come from Russia as Sergey Brin did and you found Google, America’s a place that you can do that.
And we have one central myth. And a myth isn’t something that’s untrue; it’s just something that’s larger than life. That is the log cabin. That it doesn’t matter where you came from; it matters where you’re going. It doesn’t matter if you’re from humble circumstances, you can still be president of the United States. And if that ever ceases to be true in our multiethnic democracy, because there are kids who aren’t well educated because of their circumstances, then we’re going to lose the center of who we are. And that, in turn, will make us also less confident in our leadership in the world.
QUESTION: So based on that, describe your parents.
SECRETARY RICE: My parents were – educated themselves because their parents insisted on education for their kids. My parents were teachers. My dad eventually ended up as a university administrator. But I doubt my parents ever, between them, made $60,000 a year. And yet, I never felt that there was any opportunity that was going to be denied to me. When I, of course, studied piano from age three, my grandmother was a piano teacher, so that wasn’t so hard. But when I wanted to learn to play the flute, they somehow found a way to go out and find a flute. When I wanted to take lessons in French, or more correctly, when they wanted me to take lessons in French, they went out and found a way for me and for some of my little friends to have French lessons with Mrs. Danetta Thornton, who I saw not too long ago, who still teaches in Birmingham. When they wanted me to – when I wanted to be a figure skater, even though I was incredibly the wrong body type and not at all talented on the ice, they found a way for me to do it. And when they thought that the public schools in Denver were just not strong enough, they found a way to send me to a Catholic academy so that I could have the best education.
And I know – you know, I didn’t really realize it until I was about 20 years old, and I realized one day that they did it at great sacrifice to themselves. They did it so maybe vacations weren’t, you know, very extensive. Or they did it denying themselves financial benefit. And they just so incredibly valued education, and not just for me, but for the students that they taught. Birmingham, when I was growing up there, didn’t have free textbooks in the schools, believe it or not, and the teachers, my parents, and their friends, would put their money together and buy textbooks for kids who couldn’t afford them. They – my father, like his father before him, would go, literally, door to door in the government housing project behind his church, and he would say, “You know, your daughter’s really smart. We’re going to get her a scholarship to Stillman College,” for a family that had never had a kid go to college. And so they were, as I’ve said, educational evangelists, and I want that story to be told, too.
QUESTION: So if Condi Rice is writing the first textbook on the Bush presidency, the first paragraph, what would you include?
SECRETARY RICE: The President believed that all men were created equal and that they were – all men and women were created equal, and that they had the right to live in freedom and liberty. That meant freedom from tyranny, but also freedom from poverty, freedom from ignorance. And he made it the purpose of American foreign policy to begin that journey, knowing that it wouldn’t be achieved on his watch -- it’s a generational struggle, but knowing that ultimately, when it was achieved, there would be absolutely no ground and no basis on which terrorists could hold.
QUESTION: At what point do you think history can judge the last eight years?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, history is a funny thing. You know, I keep four secretaries of state’s portraits near me. Thomas Jefferson, everybody has Thomas Jefferson, although I think he might have been a little surprised that two of his successors in a row were African Americans. He was still a founding father. George Marshall, probably the greatest Secretary of State. But I keep also Dean Acheson, because when he left, perhaps it was who lost China that was most thought, and yet now we remember him really, I think, as the architect of the foundation for – on which we won the cold war, NATO and all the associated institutions. And I keep William Seward because we all remember that he bought Alaska and that was Seward’s Folly, of course.
History’s judgment and today’s headlines are rarely the same. And I think that when this President’s story is written, yes, there will be controversy. And yes, there will be mistakes that we undoubtedly made, and things we should have done differently. But that the core values of the unassailable right of every man, woman, and child to live in freedom, and how critical that is to having an answer to ideologies of hatred that caused September 11th, that will be affirmed and it will be vindicated.
QUESTION: Well, let me – if I could follow up, because those mistakes can be lessons for the future. What are those lessons?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that -- particularly, let’s take Iraq, where everybody wonders, there are a lot of things that could have been done differently. I think that it took awhile to really understand how to help a country that was really completely destroyed in its fabric, not just its institutions, but the fabric of society by the years of tyranny under Saddam Hussein and how to help it recover. In retrospect, we did a lot from Baghdad, a lot from the top down. The provinces and the tribes were clearly part of the answer. And it took a while to recognize that the complete integration of the civilian and military effort through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams would empower the provinces to create friends, for instance, the sons of Iraq and Anbar, who would then themselves with our help expel al-Qaida.
I believe strongly that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was right, and it was perhaps the most important change in the Middle East, and I think we will come to see it that way. But how really desperately fragmented Iraq was; I think that was something we frankly didn’t see. I know, too, that we did not have the right institutional structure for postwar operations. It’s funny because we didn’t have the right institutional structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. We left it to the UN.
And frankly, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s still three states in one. It’s still not managed to come together as an integrated state. In Afghanistan, we tried it in the kind of adopt-a-ministry approach through the Bonn process. And I frankly think we still live with some of the incoherence that that produced. And in Iraq, we tried to give it to a single department, the Department of Defense, in order to maintain a unity of command, and I don’t think that worked very effectively. But frankly, the State Department wasn’t ready to do that either.
And so now we have – the President has created a Civilian Response Corps because many of the tasks that the military has ended up doing in all of these cases of postwar reconstruction really ought to be done by civilians. But the Diplomatic Corps isn’t going to have city planners and tax experts and agricultural experts. USAID, which once had something like 11,000 professional officers, now has 1,100.
So the Civilian Response Corps is an idea to have a core of people inside the government who could mobilize from the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Justice. But more importantly, based on the kind of National Guard or reserve model, to be able to reach out to Americans who -- if you are a prosecutor in Arizona, maybe you’d like to take a year and go and help the Afghans to build a decent justice system. Or perhaps if you are an agricultural expert, you’d like to go and help the people of Haiti to get decent agricultural production. And being able to draw on those Americans as a reserve corps, civilians who want to do it, I think is a great innovation that comes directly out of the fact that we haven’t really had the right structures to handle postwar reconstruction properly.
QUESTION: These, as you know, are some of the issues that the President has talked about when he leaves office.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Have you had any conversations about how he should shape his post presidency?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think he will come to terms with that himself. I know he wants to have a freedom institute because he believes so strongly -- he’s called himself the dissident president, because he’s always drawn to those people who are willing to fight under dangerous circumstances, who fight courageously for freedom. And I’m sure that whatever he does, he’ll keep association with people like that, people like Natan Sharansky of Russia and others who have never let freedom’s light go out, even when it required great courage to keep it burning.
QUESTION: In those times when you’ve had quiet moments with him, how would you describe your relationship with him? Without giving away secrets, what do you talk about?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Oh, any and everything. You know, the President and Laura Bush, the First Lady, and I are good friends. He’s still the President. And so I spent a good deal of time on Secretary of State business, but in a kind of broad, more philosophical way. One of the great things is that we can talk more philosophically about what we’re trying to achieve, rather than the checklist of what I have to get done on that particular day.
But the President is also one of the most genuine, easiest to be around, wonderful sense of humor, great love for his family and great faith. And he’s honored me by saying that we grew up together in this political business, that I’m sort of like his sister. And since – I don’t know, since I never had a brother, I’m not quite sure exactly what means, but I think it means that we have enormous respect for one another, but also the ability to talk easily about whatever is hard. I feel I can be and have been completely open with him when I’ve disagreed, completely open with him about hard messages and he’s the same way with me.
QUESTION: Let me touch on a couple of parts of the world and ask you to give us a broad overview of where we stand. First of all, the Middle East.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: This Administration has already said that there will not be an accord by the end of this term. What’s next?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Annapolis process is the basis on which a two-state solution will ultimately be achieved. I was just in Egypt at Sharm el-Sheikh. We had there the two negotiators, Abu Mazen for the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for the Israelis, who reported to the international community the Quartet, which is Russia, the EU, the United States and the UN and it sort of represents the international community on Middle East matters, that they are going to continue this process to its conclusion. They believe that Annapolis has given them a framework both bottom up, where we’re building the institutions of the Palestinian state and security forces, improving conditions on the ground economically for Palestinians, and top down -- that means talking about every core issue that has to be resolved in order to end their conflict -- that they’ve got the basis on which to do this.
Now, we knew when we said at Annapolis last year that the parties would make best efforts to achieve a final status agreement by the end of the year, that they might not and that there would be people who would say, well, that means the negotiations are over. But I cannot tell you how strongly they said in that room in Sharm el-Sheikh, we will keep going.
Now, it’s been difficult because the political situation in Israel, in particular, has been turbulent, and they now to go elections, and therefore it’s going to be hard to get an agreement. But I’m quite certain that as Tony Blair put it, there is now an international strategy to get that solution, and it’s called Annapolis -- the Annapolis process. And it now – the foundation is there. It – they’ll get it done. I’m sure of it.
QUESTION: In hindsight, eight years ago, was President Bush engaged enough in the Middle East?
SECRETARY RICE: Do you know the Middle East we found? We found the collapse of the Camp David negotiations. And with the collapse of those negotiations -- and think about the difference, when Camp David collapsed in that last-minute push to get an agreement, everybody said there will be no state, negotiations have failed, and you have the second intifada and large-scale Israeli military operations, hundreds of innocent Israelis and Palestinians were dying just in large numbers almost weekly. And that wasn’t – there was no negotiation. There was nothing but out-and-out warfare between them.
Now, there simply wasn’t going to be a restart of negotiations when the President came into power. We had to try to bring things back together. The President immediately said Israel has the right to defend itself; that we started to caution that there had to be a new day somewhere along the line for Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation. The President went out and said there will be two states, the first time the President of the United States had, as a matter of policy, said there has to be a Palestinian state. And he called it by its name: a state of Palestine. That’s something that Palestinians remember today. And that two-state solution -- they now talk about the Bush vision for the two-state solution. Slowly but surely, people began to rally around it. A roadmap for aspirations was concluded in 2003.
Prime Minister Sharon, the father of the settlement movement, went to the Hertzliya conference in Israel in 2003 and said, we will have to divide the land -- something that no Likud leader, conservative leader, had ever said. And then in 2005, a Palestinian government elected on the basis of not resistance and terror, but on a peaceful negotiation came to power. And slowly but surely, leading to Annapolis, we got the process back on track. The two negotiate now about the most sensitive issues. And there will be a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Let me ask about Iran. President Ahmadinejad has sent a letter of congratulations to Barack Obama.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: What advice do you give him and how do we deal with Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I thought that the President-elect said it himself the other day when he said it’s unacceptable to have an Iranian nuclear weapon. The – we have set up a strategy, an international strategy through the European Union 3 -- that’s Britain, Germany and France, plus the United States, Russia and China, so the P-5 of the UN, plus Germany – that has the international voice now for getting Iran to stop enriching and reprocessing. Because once you enrich and reprocess and learn that at a certain level, you can enrich and reprocess at 5 percent --that’s for civil-nuclear use -- or at 97 percent -- that’s for a bomb. And nobody trusts the Iranians with the fuel cycle. And so the question has been: How do you get them to come to the negotiating table?
We in 2006, this President and I, made an offer to the Iranians. We will reverse the more than 28 years of American policy and sit down and talk about any and everything; just stop enriching and reprocessing and let’s have negotiations. They’ve not been able to do it. And so the international community has passed four Security Council resolutions demanding that they do so. We have also used unilateral national measures, as have other countries, like Australia and Great Britain and others, to sanction Iranian entities that are engaged in proliferation or terrorism – banks and financial institutions. And it’s no coincidence then that major financial institutions and really all of the major, now, energy companies – Total of France was the last to leave – are no longer engaged in Iran.
So I think the stage is set that Iran, with an economy that is really in very deep trouble and will be in greater trouble with lower oil prices, might be amenable, I would hope soon, to a strategy that is a negotiated strategy to allow Iran civil nuclear power but not the fuel cycle that leads to a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: You talk about Haiti, which, as you know, has been hit hard by four hurricanes.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: The poverty of Africa. How do we deal with these third-world nations? What is our responsibility?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President, through his really historic Marshall Plan-like assistance programs to these parts of the world, I think is really leading the world to say developed countries that have so much ought to increase their assistance. And indeed, we have led. We have increased assistance dramatically. But there has to be a partner on the other side that is not going to waste the money, it’s not going to build palaces, it’s not going to be corrupt and take the money of the people, that is going to invest that money in education and in healthcare, that’s going to fight corruption.
And the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is a compact between the country and the United States, has even made a difference in how assistance is delivered. Now, nongovernmental organizations plus the governments of those countries get together and they plan together for the improvement of roads so that subsistence farmers can get their crop to market in an efficient way, for land titling so that larger plots of agricultural land can be developed.
This model, the Millennium Challenge, has countries coming to me with a little brochure that says here’s why we would be a good Millennium Challenge country. And they know that that means changes in their laws, changes in their practices, engaging their populations, fighting corruption. And there’s even something called the MCC University, where countries that have succeeded engage countries that are trying to get an MCC compact. And the amounts of money are large, over $800 million for Tanzania, over $450 or $460 million for Ghana. I mean they’re large amounts of money. But they come with a demand for policy changes, and that’s changing the way that development assistance is done. And --
QUESTION: But that has been a perennial problem of the corruption on the other end, so how do you ensure it or correct it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, because it is being corrected by countries that want those large investments. And by the way, in a lot of the world, now democratic governments that really are accountable to their people are coming into power. You’re having changes of leadership by democratic means across the continent of Africa. Of course, in Latin America you’re having changes in leadership by democratic means. And so this is the time to reinforce that assistance is not just a handout; it is an investment in governments that are willing to make the tough changes and the tough choices in the way that they govern.
QUESTION: How have you approached this job as Secretary of State?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ve tried to do a couple of things. First of all, as I’ve mentioned, I try always to keep at core what America stands for and its values, and that we are not neutral in defending democracy and freedom abroad. I’ve tried to make sure that our alliances are strong. And when I find, as I found in 2005, that, for instance, on the situation in Iran, somehow we were viewed as the problem, I’ve tried to take a hard look at our policies and see how we make sure that we’re on the same page with our allies, because I think our allies want to be on the same page with us.
I believe that you can’t do this job sitting in Washington. I felt that we did have to strengthen alliances that, frankly, had been frayed by 2003 and 2004, and so I traveled to them. When I was trying to build the P-5+1 to confront Iran, I went and we had meetings face-to-face. I don’t think you can do it by telephone and by videoconference.
And I have tried to make sure that the Department of State is a place that values its people. We have a terrific Foreign Service, a career organization and career officers in the Foreign Service and in the Civil Service that just want to make a difference. You know, they don’t do it because they are well compensated. These are people who could be doing anything in their lives. They do it because they want to make a difference. They want the world to change.
And I’ve tried to incorporate those people into my team and into my daily life because I respect them for their talents. And I’ve tried to make sure that my organization is pretty flat; that if assistant secretaries want to come see and see me, they know they can do it almost immediately.
And so I believe that as a Secretary of State who does those things and who maintains a close working relationship and always remembers that the President of the United States is the President of the United States, and that it is my responsibility to make sure that we are on the same page, that that’s a good basis on which to do this.
QUESTION: So what is the art of diplomacy? How do you serve as a diplomat? What do you bring to the job?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the art of diplomacy is to recognize that it’s not just talking. Sometimes it’s talking. Talking is a good thing. But you have to have something you’re trying to achieve. And when you’re dealing with friends, closest allies, it’s usually appealing to our common values and our common interests. When you’re dealing with adversaries, you’d better have leverage. You have to have established that there are consequences for not coming to agreement.
It’s often the case that when you’re dealing with adversaries, it’s best not to be doing it alone. So one of the things I think we’ve done well is to structure with the North Korean nuclear problem a circumstance in which North Korea – we may talk to North Korea bilaterally, we may even negotiate with them bilaterally, but they always know that we’re doing it on behalf of and with China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. Because it’s easy for North Korea to make it a problem between the United States and North Korea. It’s harder to face down or to cheat on China or South Korea that have different kinds of leverage than we do.
So I’m a big fan of multilateralism done the right way, which means that it’s about having something that you’re trying to achieve and finding common purpose with others.
QUESTION: What worries you the most?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it’s very important that we not lose focus on the fact that September 11th happened for a reason, and it happened because there were people out there who believe that they can take down our way of life, and they plot and they plan every day. It’s not over. Are we safer today than we were? Yes, absolutely. But are we safe? No.
And anyone who was in a position of authority on September 11th, for us, every day since then has been September 12th. And every day, you recognize that it could happen again. And so I hope America doesn't lose its vigilance. I hope that we recognize that there is a lot of work to do to continue to take down these terrorist networks, that it’s hard and sometimes not very appealing work to do so, and that you have to mobilize all manner of American power to do it.
QUESTION: Is there a moment during the last four or eight years that you remember the most?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the moment – if I could have two, because one is still unfinished business. But the moment I remember most was flying over Baghdad for the first time. I had gone out there and things were pretty tough when I was first Secretary. Things were pretty tough. But I looked at this great city and I saw the two rivers coming together, the Tigris and Euphrates. I saw the great agricultural land. I saw the great monuments going all the way back to Mesopotamia and to their great heritage. And I called the President from the plane and I said, “Mr. President, this is going to be a great country again, and it’ll be a great country and it’ll be America’s friend.”
Because Iraq is a powerful country in the center of the Middle East, and the Middle East’s future is still evolving and unfolding. It is still a part of the world that has to come to grips with the demands for popular legitimacy that are there and that are growing. It is still a part of the world that has not reached its great scientific and economic potential, I think, in part because of the freedom gap. And the Iraqi example had always been one of a powerful state, a bulwark against Iran, a center of the Arab world. There was only one problem: It was run by Saddam Hussein, who attacked his neighbors, tyrannized his own people, and loathed the United States. And it was very, very hard to get there, very hard to get there, and the lives lost will never be forgotten and they can never be brought back. But it will be, I am quite certain now, a powerful, democratic state in the center of the Middle East, and it will be a friend of the United States. And that will matter.
The other is that I was in China and I went out to the earthquake zone to meet some of the people there. And a little 12-year-old boy came up to me and he said, “Oh, I know who you are.” He said, “I see you on television.” He said, “You’re that lady from America.” And I thought, yeah, that’s right. That’s how I’d like to be remembered, not as the Secretary of State or Condi Rice, just that lady from America who could go anywhere and anyplace and the 12-year-old, that’s what he thought.
QUESTION: So, finally, two personal questions. What’s next for you?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Well, I’ll go back to California. You know, I am, after all, an academic at heart. I will go back to Stanford. I’ve been on leave. I have to say here, I’ve been on leave eight years, but George Shultz was on leave almost 12, so I don’t have the record.
I want to write a book about American foreign policy. I want to write a book about my folks, my parents. I want to write – I want to think about what I can do to engage what they call tweeners now, or 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds, and maybe open up the world to them. Because I get so many letters from kids that age – so many conservative even clerics in the Middle East will say, “Oh, my granddaughter really loves you. Would you send her a note?” And somehow, that age group – American kids who need to engage the world and want to learn languages and know that there’s a big world out there, not to be afraid of but to want to be a part of, as well as kids abroad who need to know America. I’d like to see if there’s some way that I can use the platform that I have, the fact that a lot of those kids know my name or know at least that I’m the lady from America, I’d like to see if I could do something to spark their interest in the world.
QUESTION: Finally, you travel a lot.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: How do you deal with jet lag? What advice would you give anyone who travels overseas?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the most important thing about traveling is to try to keep a schedule that’s as regular as possible, so the one thing that the staff that work with me know is that I have to have my time to exercise every morning. I never miss my exercise on the road. And I think that’s really helped. And the other thing is set your watch to wherever you’re going, not where you’re coming from. It’s amazing the psychological games that you can play with yourself to arrive and say, oh, no, it really is 5 o'clock in the evening, it’s really not 4 o'clock in the morning where I came from.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, we thank you for your time.
SECRETARY RICE: It was a pleasure.
Released on November 12, 2008