Condoleezza Rice With Randy Shandobil, KTVU-Fox
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Stanford Park Hotel
Menlo Park, California
May 23, 2008
Interview With Randy Shandobil of KTVU-Fox
QUESTION: Since time's limited, I'll get to the tough ones right away.
SECRETARY RICE: All right.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) know it's coming anyway.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: But the war has now been going on for more than five years. Are Americans any safer than they were before the war started?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I believe that we are safer, but not yet safe. And it's not just because we are trying to help the Middle East and the people of the Middle East find a way to a more decent life, to a life of greater democracy which is not going to produce the kind of extremism that produced al-Qaida. But obviously, we've done a lot in terms of our defensive preparations here. We have a worldwide network now of law enforcement and intelligence and military allies who are working to take away safe havens for terrorists. So yes, I think we're safer, but we're not yet safe.
QUESTION: I'm sure you've heard these criticisms before. Some Democrats especially say that because of how the war was handled, because many people in other parts of the world see us as occupiers because of things like Abu Ghraib, that the U.S. now has more enemies than it did before the war, that there are young men growing up as potential terrorists as we speak.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I simply don't think it's true. First of all, I do think that there was a significant malignancy in the Middle East that exploded on September 11th, and it's going to take some time to deal with the atmosphere of hopelessness, the conditions that would actually lead people to be so extreme that they would fly airplanes into buildings. But we have to remember they bombed our embassies in 1998, going all the way, really, going back to Lebanon in 1983. We faced terrorist extremist threats, but they gathered and gathered and gathered in the Middle East. I think we're now in the process of rooting that out. And it's going to be tough and it's going to be a struggle for some time to come.
But in terms of Iraq, I think you're looking at a place where I will be the first to say it's much, much harder than I ever thought it would be. You can never (inaudible) back the people that we lost. But I believe that it was done in a noble cause and it will be to our benefit because we will have an ally in the Middle East who's willing to fight terror, who will be, in Iraq, one of the first democratic states, multiethnic democratic states, in the Middle East.
And they're making progress toward that goal, but it's hard. When you're trying to unravel years and years of tyranny, when you're trying to learn to overcome your differences by politics, not by violence and repression, it's hard.
QUESTION: Any regrets with regard to Iraq, what mistakes the U.S. has made?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I will be the first to say, of course, we made mistakes. And there will be plenty of time to assess what they were and what might have gone differently. I think we did a lot of things right as well, and the most right thing was to liberate that country from Saddam Hussein and to liberate the region from Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: I really don't want to get involved in
partisan politics, but a debate between John McCain and
Barack Obama has been going on the past couple of weeks
about the wisdom of a president negotiating with leaders of
countries that could be seen as enemies. I'm just wondering
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just - not in terms of the debate, because you're right, I'm not going to get into a political debate here. But in terms of how one conducts foreign policy and conducts diplomacy, the President of the United States is the ultimate (inaudible) for the United States of America. I can't tell you what a valuable thing it is to, when you're out there in the world, to be able to say, yes, you can meet with the President, the President would like to meet with you. It's very, very much someone who is coveted. And the President really ought to be there when something can be delivered, when things are going along to encourage strong allies, to help states that have made big strategic choices to come over the line.
In talking to adversaries, we talk to adversaries. We certainly do so when the conditions are right. Diplomacy isn't just about going into a room and talking. You're trying to get results.
QUESTION: You talk to adversaries?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course. But I'm trying to get them going. And so I try to make sure that the conditions are right before I do it. So the conditions were right with North Korea because we created a coalition of five other states that have real incentives and disincentives that they can deliver - South Korea, Japan, Russia, China. These states together make it possible to actually deliver something (inaudible).
QUESTION: Let me play devil's advocate for one minute. The U.S. has isolated Castro for decades. His family is still in power. How has it helped?
SECRETARY RICE: His family is still in power. Unfortunately, for the Cuban people, their lives are still quite miserable under his brother, just as it was under him. But I really fail to see how that change - what will change by talking to him. You know, it's very interesting; all of the European countries that talk to him that didn't have trade embargoes, it didn't seem to make a difference.
So the idea that somehow just talking is what will make a difference - I've met my counterpart, my Syrian counterpart, a couple of times. But the issue isn't talking to Syria; it's getting Syria to change its behavior. And with Iran, we are part of a group of states - Russia, Great Britain, France, the Chinese - and we have said that if the Iranians will do what the world requires them to do, suspend their enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, I'll be there.
QUESTION: You are - you're very much aware of this - the first female African American Secretary of State. I'm wondering, have you paid a price for gender or sex at all? I mean - or race? Excuse me.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's an interesting question. You know, I've always said I'm a package. I can't kind of go back and do the experiment, what would have happened if I'd been a white man. And so I tend not to think about it very much.
I don't think so. In fact, I would say that there are some things that have been advantageous even to our diplomacy. I think I've been able to speak to marginalized people in a way that comes out of my own experience of segregation in Birmingham. I've been able to work hard on the issues of women's empowerment with (inaudible) a wonderful collection of women foreign ministers and other ministers from around the world.
So it's not something to dwell on very much. Maybe when I was a little bit younger, I did get the occasional question, what will my (inaudible) life like (inaudible)? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But you don't think it's been hurting you? Well, one reason I ask is you're obviously a Republican, but you're watching the Democratic race. For the first time, a woman has a real chance of becoming president. For the first time, an African American has a real chance of becoming president. What are your thoughts as you watch this unfold?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think our country is demonstrating yet again that it's overcoming, really, a pretty difficult legacy on both gender, but especially - on both gender and race, but particularly on race. You know, I reflected recently on it and talked about the fact that our country has a birth defect. We were born with the sin of slavery and it took us almost a hundred years to (inaudible). And then of course, a long, long period of Jim Crow and segregation and continuing deprivation.
And so it's really quite, quite important that the country is showing that it's gotten past that. And I'll tell you something else. When I complete my term, if I complete my term, we will have been 12 years without a white male Secretary of State. That's pretty remarkable, too.
QUESTION: That is. Does it make you feel proud to see - again, I don't imagine that you're going to vote for either of them, but does it make you feel proud?
SECRETARY RICE: I'm proud of this country. But you know, I've never not been proud of this country. I love this country and that's why I love being Secretary of State. Because in the final analysis, it's not just negotiating this or closing the India Civil Nuclear deal or getting the Kosovo independence done or work to denuclearize North Korea or negotiating on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement. It's also representing this great country and going to people and saying, you know, America is not perfect. Our democracy was imperfect at its beginning and is still imperfect. But you know, you should pursue democracy because we've demonstrated that you can overcome those imperfections.
QUESTION: You've been with the President since he took office. Does it pain you to see those polls by historians (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I am well aware that history's judgment and today's headlines are rarely the same. You know, I keep the portraits of four secretaries of state near me. Thomas Jefferson, everybody's got Thomas Jefferson. I have George Marshall, everybody has George Marshall. But I also have Dean Acheson, who, when he left, was who lost China. And now, I think he's remembered most for NATO, the formation of NATO, and for the laying the groundwork for the end of the Cold War that benefited us so much in 1989, 1990, 1991 when we were able to unify Germany and the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union. And the other one that I have is William Seward. Remember Seward's Folly and Seward's Icebox? I think we're now happy he bought Alaska. So you shouldn't get caught up in these things.
Harry Truman, another great president who, in retrospect, really laid the foundation for the victory in the end - at the end of the Cold War.
QUESTION: I am getting a wrap, but I would be remiss if didn't just really quickly ask, chances of you becoming a running mate with John McCain?
SECRETARY RICE: No. I'm done.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, that's right. After eight or whatever months remain --
QUESTION: If asked, you'd say no?
SECRETARY RICE: I'm coming back to the Bay area, I hope, after I do more work on the Middle East and Asia and a number of other priorities, continuing to help the Iraqis get to a sustainable place and the Afghans. And then I will have done what I can do and I'll happily hand it off to somebody else.
QUESTION: Governor in 2010, Senator in 2010?
SECRETARY RICE: Come now. I'm looking right now to the end of what has been an extraordinary time, really, in many ways, a wonderful time, a challenging time, a time when - that has affected a number of people. You know, for us, for those of us who were in positions of authority on September 11th, every day has been September 12th. It'll be nice to do something else.
QUESTION: Not president on (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I didn't even run for president of my high school, so I don't think I'm the sort of elected office type, but I'm going to come back. I want to step back a little bit and reflect on what's happened. I have some issues that I care a lot about (inaudible) and education is a great national security priority from my point of view. And I'll have a chance to work on some of those issues for a while.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
Released on May 25, 2008