Condoleezza Rice Interview With Rush Limbaugh
Interview With Rush Limbaugh
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
September 15, 2006
QUESTION: I'm really happy to introduce to you Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who joins us from Washington. The last time I spoke to you, Madame Secretary, was during the 2000 Presidential campaign. So it's long overdue, but welcome to the program.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's great to be with you, Rush. I can't believe it's been that long.
QUESTION: Time flies when you're --
SECRETARY RICE: It does, it does.
QUESTION: -- having a good time. Look, I want to get straight to this because I know your time is limited. The press conference today the President had about the congressional legislation he wants, 45 Democrats oppose. And I'm not trying to draw you into political questions here, rest assured. You've got the three Republicans, McCain and Warner and Lindsey Graham joining the Democrats opposing this. Secretary Powell wrote Senator McCain a letter that McCain has publicized. You have responded in a letter to Secretary Warner. What did you say?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, I sent the letter before I had seen Secretary Powell's letter. My letter simply stated the Department of State's position, which is that the interpretation of a U.S. treaty obligation through U.S. law is something that we do frequently and all the time. We're not trying to change what's called Common Article 3. We're not trying to weaken it. We just want our professionals to have clarity so that they know what is legal and what is not.
And I have absolutely no problem defending what the President has asked the Congress to do when I go internationally. I think it only makes sense that you would not leave a very unclear standard like that of Common Article 3, which talks about outrageous, unhuman dignity, for instance, Rush. You don't want to leave that to unaccountable prosecutors, for instance, internationally. You want U.S. law to defend -- to define that.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, people like me don't understand the substance of this. We see pictures of people jumping out the World Trade Center on 9/11 this week. We remember the videotapes of the kind of treatment American and foreign hostages receive at the hands of our enemy when in their captivity. I don't understand the effort on the part of those who oppose this in Congress to try to establish a moral equivalency between the way we treat prisoners and the way our enemy does, and to suggest that we can't do something here because it might incite them to be even meaner to us.
Could you help me and others like me understand the common sense of opposing this? I can't get my arms around it.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Rush, I have to say I think -- I don't quite understand either why we would not give the professionals, our professionals a clear standard so that they know that they're obeying the law. These are people who take tremendous risk to try and defend us. They have made tremendous strides in getting information from people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned 9/11, from people like Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, who you saw on that videotape with al-Qaida just a few days ago crowing about September 11th.
They have made great strides in getting information from these people that have prevented other attacks and by the way, not just prevented attacks here in the United States, but prevented attacks in other parts of the world too. To have a piece of legislation that does not protect them and does not give them a clear legal standard, I think, is simply wrong.
QUESTION: Do you find yourself in an uncomfortable circumstance, what with Secretary Powell -- I mean, leaving aside the apparent lack of loyalty that exists in his letter, do you find it -- like, I have the New York Sun editorial here, "Showdown" -- or headline, rather, "Showdown set between Rice and Powell." Do you think this is descending into something personal?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, I don't see it that way. Look, Colin Powell is a private citizen. He can have his views and I think that's the nature of our great democracy. He's a well-respected private citizen. It's my responsibility now to help defend the United States. It's my responsibility now to defend American policies abroad and to try, through diplomacy, to make us safer. And I am quite confident that the United States can both get the information that it needs and live up to our treaty obligations and that the legislation that the President has proposed does exactly that.
QUESTION: At his press conference today, he introduced something new. Basically -- if I understand it right, the President said if he doesn't get what he wants, if there's not clarity defining and specifying the vagaries and ambiguities of Common Article 3, he said the program will not go forward. I interpreted that to mean he'll scrap it and he'll -- he's not going to put our professionals, as you refer to them, in any kind of precarious circumstances. If they don't go along with what he wants, he'll scrap the whole program. And I assume that means the focus of attention on the lack of the program existing from that point forward will be on Congress.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I feel very strongly, as does the President, that these men and women who go out and do this difficult and dangerous work deserve clarity about the legal ground on which they're standing. And I don't think that you will get people who will actually participate in this program if you don't get that kind of clarity, so you won't have a program. And it would be unfortunate, because we have learned a lot from this program, we have prevented attacks.
Rush, information is the long pole in the tent in the fight against terrorists. If you wait until a terrorist has committed his act, then 3,000 people die. What you want to do is to prevent them. And the only way that you can prevent them is to know what they're thinking, to know what they're planning, to know what they're plotting. And this program has been essential in helping us to find that out.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the average American understands this. This is -- it's not complicated and that's why so many people don't understand the actions of those in the President's party who are attempting to halt this. They're thinking there's got to be something behind the scenes that matters more than just the specifics of this. I'm not asking you to address that. I know your time is limited and I have one more question for you and I assure you, I'm asking this solely from the position of wanting to learn and wanting to understand.
And I want to go back to the recent war between the Hezbollah and Israeli forces. It seems that when it comes to Israel and their fight against terrorists, ceasefires and resolutions are the rule of the day, even though they really haven't worked in ceasing these hostilities and bringing about peace. They just bring interruptions to it. Yet when we are fighting terrorists, no -- we don't tell ourselves to ceasefire and negotiate with them. What is it about the paradigm of the Middle East that requires the fight against terrorism there be fought differently than the way we're fighting it against us?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would think of it a little differently, Rush. What you have there is you have a Lebanese Government that wants to fight terror and that is the beginnings of a democratic government that could be actually a partner for Israel in fighting terror. And so the ceasefire was really with the Lebanese Government, and now we're trying to help the Lebanese Government deal with the effects of a Hezbollah that launched that attack without Lebanon even knowing.
I think of it the following way. We are fighting terror in Iraq, but we're doing it with an Iraqi Government. We are fighting terror in Afghanistan, and we're doing it with an Afghan Government. So the way to think about what happened in Lebanon is that we're going to fight terror, but we need to do it with a Lebanese Government that is devoted to fighting terror.
So I think the -- from our point of view, there isn't any difference. No terrorist can be supported or understood or negotiated with. What you can do is to find moderate governments -- moderate leaders in those countries that are suffering from terrorism themselves and enlist them in the fight to help defeat terrorists.
QUESTION: Is Lebanon really serious about this? I mean if the Hezbollah group was able to attack without even the Government of Lebanon knowing it, then what good does a ceasefire with the Government of Lebanon do?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you have to strengthen that government. It's a weak government, and -- but it is getting stronger. It's finally deployed its military forces throughout its whole country for the first time in more than three decades.
And this is a government that came to power when the extremists assassinated the reformist Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafiq Hariri. And so this is a government that comes from the right set of values and the right set of principles. It's just not very strong. We're trying to help build it up, build up its security forces. But when we've done that in Lebanon and in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and indeed if we can find that kind of government in the Palestinian Territories, having those strong, moderate forces to help you fight terror, indigenous forces to help you fight terror, is extremely important.
QUESTION: Is it the theory is -- that terrorists will gravitate to areas where there are no states, where there are no governments --
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
QUESTION: -- like they did Afghanistan and Somalia?
SECRETARY RICE: Exactly. And so you have to build up governments that can prevent that from happening. And it's hard work --
QUESTION: I hope they are allied with us.*
SECRETARY RICE: These are governments that are allied with us. It's hard work. They're sacrificing, too. There was an attempt on the life of the Deputy Interior Minister of Lebanon just a few days ago. So they're sacrificing, too. But these are really good partners, we just have to build them up and help them to fight the terrorists in their midst.
QUESTION: Before you go, are there days you wish that you could have become the Commissioner of the National Football League?
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I love it that you're a football fan.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes, of course there are days I wish I could have become -- no, look, I love what I'm doing. And it's -- I'm really lucky to be here at this particular point in time, but at some point I'm going to want to go to one of my first loves, which is sports.
QUESTION: Well, there are a lot of Americans who are thrilled that you're there, too, because they understand the battle you have with a lot of career people in the State Department who were there before the administration got there. And you bring a comforting salve to a lot of people the way you conduct yourself and the office.
Do you have a favorite NFL team or are you --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do. Let me just say, Rush -- I just want to say one thing. I really do like being Secretary. I've got a great team here, a great group of people. And career and professional, they're working hard. And people are serving in places like Baghdad and Kabul, sometimes without their families -- always without their families. They're good folks. But in a couple of years I'll be glad to go.
And yes, I have a favorite NFL team, the Cleveland Browns.
QUESTION: Cleveland, oh my God.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, who managed to let Reggie Bush have a great rookie first game.
QUESTION: What a disappointing season you are headed for.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, now let's just watch it. Fifteen games to go.
QUESTION: I'm a Steelers fan.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, oh, I see.
QUESTION: Anyway, I appreciate your time. We need to have conversations more often. It's very --
SECRETARY RICE: I would like that. I'd like that, Rush. Let's not let it be too long the next time.
QUESTION: We'll do that.
SECRETARY RICE: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time today. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. And we'll be right back after this. Stay with us.