Powell IV by Macon Morehouse of People Magazine
Interview by Macon Morehouse of People Magazine
Secretary Colin L. Powell
November 26, 2004
(2:30 p.m. EST)
MS. MOREHOUSE: As you know, we are working on a story on Dr. Rice and I just wanted to ask you a few quick questions to get your kind of input.
First of all, and this is an easy one, how do you think she will do as Secretary of State?
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, she'll do great. She's got enormous experience that she's bringing into the job. She's worked in the military on the joint staff. She's worked in the NSC before. She's worked in the State Department. And having been National Security Advisor for the past four years, she certainly knows all of the players and she has the confidence of the President, so I'm sure she'll do very well.
MS. MOREHOUSE: It sounds like one of the things you're saying is that she's just ready to hit the ground running when she goes over there.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, sure. No question about it.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Has she asked you for any advice?
SECRETARY POWELL: We started talking even before my announcement. When I knew that she would be replacing me, we started talking, and we've been talking every day since then about personnel changes and organizational issues that she has to deal with.
She and I go back many years. When I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in the early '90s, she was on the NSC staff, and she would work with me. So I've known her for a long time.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Right, I understand. I guess your wife and she also came from similar background, so there's a nice personal link there as well.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, they both -- they're both from Birmingham, Alabama, from very prominent black families in Birmingham during the segregated days of Birmingham. And I don't think the families knew each other that well, but they knew of each other.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Okay.
SECRETARY POWELL: But similar backgrounds.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Now, if you've talked to her every day, obviously you've talked to her since the announcement. Has she kind of let on what her feelings are about -- or any sort of, like, emotion? I know she looked visibly moved during the ceremony.
SECRETARY POWELL: She's, I think, very honored that the President would ask her to do this. And she is very excited about it and looking forward to it. But she and I have a pretty straightforward not only professional relationship but a business relationship. I will no longer say "older uncle," "younger niece" story, because it dates me. (Laughter.) But it's that kind of a relationship. It's warm and it's close.
MS. MOREHOUSE: So she's been able to kind of express her -- because I know she's very --
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we've always been able to let our hair down with each other.
MS. MOREHOUSE: So has she done anything special to kind of commemorate this nomination, or just, like, said, you know --
SECRETARY POWELL: No. That was another -- we don't have much time for commemoration or celebration in our business. We've got to get on with the job. And as you noticed, she didn't take time off to go celebrate the moment. She's preparing herself. And is down for a few days with a minor surgical procedure, but I'm sure that she'll be everywhere beginning next week as she gets ready to take over the Department.
MS. MOREHOUSE: I know. I actually spoke to her doctor this morning, and she came through that very well, by the way.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, sure.
MS. MOREHOUSE: I know it's been reported that she has a very close relationship with the President, and will that have an impact on how she's able to do the job?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, yeah, that's always an important part of the job, and that is to have the ability to not only see and talk to the President on a very regular basis, but more importantly, to have knowledge of how the President thinks about issues and what he believes about issues. And she will be uniquely able to do that because of the daily relationship she's had with the President for the last four to five years.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Do you think that will change any way the way we sort of operate in the world?
SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't predict. I'll let the future determine that. I won't predict on that because I couldn't predict accurately.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Do you know if she's at all concerned about the -- I mean, there are some people who have written in the past couple of days that there is concern or they have said that they're concerned that she'll be sort of like a "yes" man for the President, that he won't be hearing a diversity of views because they're so close. Is that --
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I doubt that. I think she will always be someone that will tell the President what she thinks. She'll be doing it from a different perspective, however. It's a little different. I've been in both jobs, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, and they're quite different. So she'll have a different perspective representing the views of a very gifted bureaucracy that knows these issues very well and will be able to make sure that she has all aspects of a problem in mind as she advises the President. But I'm sure she'll give the President her best advice.
MS. MOREHOUSE: And personal diplomacy, obviously, is a huge part of the job. And I know we've gotten glimpses of some of the sort of more personable things, like, I know she, at one point, danced with -- I'm going to say his name wrong -- Jiang Zemin.
SECRETARY POWELL: Jiang Zemin. I was there. It was a marvelous moment.
MS. MOREHOUSE: And also that, I guess, I found another report where she had done the "cotton-eyed Joe" when, I guess, Vladimir Putin was visiting Crawford.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I was there for that, too.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Okay. Well, how would you describe her? I mean, are there any other incidences --
SECRETARY POWELL: She's very outgoing. She's very outgoing. And as you know, she's a musician and a patron of the arts and a good dancer. Anybody who can dance for -- with Jiang Zemin and perform in front of Putin the "cotton-eyed Joe" with Ambassador Dan Fried -- (laughter) -- is quite something to behold.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Have you seen any other incidences of that, besides the ones that we have heard about?
SECRETARY POWELL: None that I talk about.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Oh, come on.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, not really. I'm just kidding.
MS. MOREHOUSE: What about -- I know you're famous for having ABBA, a special relationship with --
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know because she -- our musical tastes are clearly not the same. (Laughter.) I love ABBA and I love pop kind of stuff and musicals, where she is very much into the classics, of course.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Okay.
SECRETARY POWELL: But she enjoys not just classics, I think she's quite an aficionado of jazz, and things of that nature, whereas I'm more of a bubble-gummer.
MS. MOREHOUSE: So we're not going to see her singing, "Dancing Queen," or anything like that?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, she will not be doing either "Dancing Queen" or the Village People -- (laughter) -- on stage or anything similar, I fear.
MS. MOREHOUSE: It's the end of an era.
SECRETARY POWELL: It's the end of an era. I warned some of my colleagues last night that they would be getting classical music in the future and not Powell singing Village People. (Laughter.)
MS. MOREHOUSE: And they were, I'm sure, very disappointed, right? Well, at least you have room for the baby grand in that -- those rooms up there.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah.
MS. MOREHOUSE: But personally, I --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm going to have to run.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Okay. Can I ask you one last question?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, yeah.
MS. MOREHOUSE: I know you talked about your personal relationship, and I understand she comes over quite often for Sunday dinner with you and --
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah.
MS. MOREHOUSE: -- to spend time with the transition.
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, she's been at our home many times. And when she comes over it's usually, you know, with just the family around and she joins in as family for Sunday afternoon dinner or something else, whatever day she comes over or evening she comes over, and then we go off and do some quiet chat.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Anything surprising that we would know about her, need to know about her?
SECRETARY POWELL: No.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Okay. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: Got to go.
MS. MOREHOUSE: I appreciate it.
SECRETARY POWELL: Bye-bye.
MS. MOREHOUSE: Bye-bye.