Secretary Rice Interview On The Steve Gill Show
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
November 13, 2007
Interview on the Steve Gill Show
QUESTION: Joining us on our newsmakers live, a very special guest who's been with us on the Steve Gill Show before. Last time she came it was a lot more controversial. She was speaking at Vanderbilt University. We even had to dispense those "Tennesseans Love Condi" t-shirts just to help show her a welcoming approach in Tennessee. And normally, we don't restrict what questions we ask or issues we get into with a guest, but we've reached a deal with Secretary Rice that I'm not going to bring up the Tennessee -- or she's not going to bring up the Tennessee-Alabama football game if I don't bring up that Mississippi State-Alabama game Saturday. So a deal's a deal.
Secretary, good to have you back with us.
SECRETARY RICE: It's good to be with you, and that's a very good deal, Steve. Thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You are a -- I mean, a lot of folks know, I think, but probably don't recognize how much of a devoted college and pro football fan you actually are.
SECRETARY RICE: I am indeed. It's been a little rough -- some good points, not so good points.
QUESTION: Hey, that's SEC football. You've got ups and downs.
SECRETARY RICE: Ups and downs. Lots of good teams in the SEC these days.
QUESTION: You got a promotion since we last talked with you as National Security Advisor. Sometimes, be careful what you ask for because you've got a full plate. Just this morning, you've got Ms. Bhutto in Pakistan saying, apparently, she wants Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, to step aside as both president and military commander. Does this make your job harder or easier in finding a way out of the turmoil in Pakistan?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's clearly a difficult situation in Pakistan. And Steve, we're just focusing on a few basics. The first is that they need to end the state of emergency as soon as possible. Secondly, they're going to need to hold these elections in January. It was a good thing that President Musharraf said that, but they need to hold those elections. And we still think that there is room for moderate forces to work together because they all have a common enemy in the extremists who tried to kill President Musharraf, also who tried to kill Mrs. Bhutto. But the most important thing is to get out of this state of emergency so that something like normal life can return to Pakistan.
QUESTION: Mrs. Bhutto is hinting that she may even push a boycott of those elections if they take place in January. Obviously, that would be a disaster for democracy in Pakistan.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are concerned that when the elections take place they have to take place in a different atmosphere than now. You can't have free and fair elections with the kinds of restrictions on the media that you have, with the kinds of restrictions on assembly of opposition. So clearly, some things are going to have to change on the ground before those elections can be held in any state.
QUESTION: Southwest Asia occupying a lot of your attention. You've also got President Ahmadi-Nejad in Iran continuing to be very forceful and refusing to go along with inspections or backing off of their nuclear ambitions. Are we making any progress behind the scenes? There's a sense, it seems, that in Iran some of his support is starting to fall away. Can we take advantage of that and maybe force an internal regime change?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly hope that what is happening is that there are reasonable people in Iran who recognize that being isolated in the way that they are is not good for the Iranian people. And this is a great people; it's a great culture, a great civilization. They shouldn't be isolated in this way.
And the only reason they're isolated is because of the policies of this regime. Hopefully, there are reasonable people who would take the offer to negotiate that the international community has put before them. They have only to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activities. That's something, Steve, that you really don't need if you want civil nuclear power, but you do need if you're pushing toward technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, which is why we've been so insistent on that condition. But they have a chance to have a different course here, and I hope some of the debate in Iran really does show that perhaps there are some who want to take a different course.
QUESTION: You have to read a lot of papers every day to keep up with what's going on. One of the things you may have noticed is there's a lot less reporting about what's going on in Iraq these days. Is that the best way you can tell things are going pretty well in Iraq is if the media has stopped covering what's going on in Iraq?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, yes, this is -- I think that what has happened is that the Iraqis, first and foremost, have begun to take control of their own streets. That happened in the Sunni heartland in Anbar with these sheikhs, these local leaders sending their own sons to battle al-Qaida, is probably one of the biggest stories since September 11th, one of the biggest defeats for the ideology of al-Qaida.
Secondly, our surge is having an effect. No one would say that this battle is over against insurgents and against violent people, but clearly the security situation is improving. And frankly, the Iraqis are trying to practice more normal politics, normal economics, and perhaps that's why you're seeing less reporting. But this is really a story about the bravery of our men and women in uniform, the bravery of our civilians who are working there, and most especially, the bravery and the determination of the Iraqi people to have a different kind of life.
QUESTION: Some of the same leaders in Congress that were telling us just a few months ago that we had lost in Iraq, that there was no prospect for military victory in Iraq are now saying, "Well, everybody knew the surge would work. Everybody knew we could get military victory." Of course, that's not what they were saying a few months ago. Now they're saying that, "Well, we can't achieve political victory," that it is just something that can't be achieved. Are they going to be wrong on this too?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iraqis are going to achieve political reconciliation, but it takes time. We had our own struggles with political reconciliation in the United States. And the Iraqis have made some progress, particularly, Steve, at the local level. There are local councils, local leaders taking control and they're beginning to deliver services for their people.
I know that there's still a deadlock among some of the -- concerning certain laws that need to be passed at the national level, but it's probably not very well known that the Iraqis are executing their budgets better and getting money from the central government out to the provinces. It's probably not very well known that they passed a law of intention, they passed a law in investment, they passed a budget, which is something, of course, we haven't been able to do in the United States.
And so politics is going on, they've still got a lot of hard work to do and we're pressing every day for the Iraqis to pass this big legislation that would lead to national reconciliation. But this is a country where the situation is improving. No one is out of the woods yet. We shouldn't assume that the struggle is over. But Iraqis have begun to assert themselves in positive ways.
QUESTION: You really cut your international teeth on being a Russia expert. It has to be particularly difficult to watch some of the tough rhetoric that we were hearing from Vladimir Putin, really kind of going back to the old Cold War rhetoric just a few weeks ago. That seems to have tempered down a bit in recent weeks. Are you all talking behind the scenes to clamp down the rhetoric or is he starting to back off of where he seemed to be heading?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, when we went to -- when Secretary Gates and I went to Moscow, we took some new ideas about how we might cooperate on missile defense, because after all, our missile defenses aren't aimed at the Russians. They're aimed at threats like the Iranian threat and where necessary, the North Korean threat. And we had some good discussions about that and about other matters and hopefully, the Russians are now considering those offers of cooperation because really, while we have our differences with Russia, this is not the Soviet Union. Steve, I knew the Soviet Union pretty well and this is not the Soviet Union.
QUESTION: I got to ask you about politics. I wrote a book about Fred Thompson and his political prospects. And I got to admit, I'll put you up as his vice presidential nominee, whether you wanted it or not. Any prospects that you would say yes, not just if Fred Thompson asked, but if somebody else would ask as a nominee for President? Could we see you on the ballot?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no. We're going to have good candidates in the Republican Party and people who can carry on this very tough fight and against terrorists, people who can keep the country secure and prosperous. But I've done about what I can. And after this year when we still got a big agenda -- a Palestinian state that we'd like to see established, work to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon, a whole host of issues -- after I've done that, I'll be ready to go back to Stanford. And, Steve, I'll watch some Pac-10 football.
QUESTION: Now, is that an absolute no or one of those soft political no's?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no. That's one of those I'm headed back to Stanford.
QUESTION: Put it in concrete. You know, you're not going to follow my advice again.
SECRETARY RICE: I appreciate it very much, but I'll be glad to come back and visit here in Tennessee.
QUESTION: We'll look forward to that. Secretary Rice, thank you for the great work you do. Thanks for spending some time with us and enjoy your short visit to Tennessee today and we'll talk with you soon.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you so much, Steve. Take care. Bye-bye.
Released on November 13, 2007