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December 17th, 2008
06:49 PM ET

Secretary Rice on Iraq, Israel and why she's not type-A

Zain Verjee
CNN State Department Correspondent

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Pleasure to be with you.

QUESTION: You’ve been in the Bush Administration for eight years.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: What’s been the best moment?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there have been a lot of great moments: seeing the Afghans liberate themselves from the Taliban; seeing the Iraqis vote for the first time; going for the first time to the West Bank and being with Palestinians was a really special – a special time. And I think the thing I never expected was to actually be in Libya face-to-face with Colonel Qadhafi. So that probably stands out as one of the extraordinary moments.

QUESTION: It was a historic trip, though.

SECRETARY RICE: It was an historic trip.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Secretary of State to Libya.

SECRETARY RICE: A historic trip. And you could see that this country of Libya which has been so isolated for so long has a great deal to offer. And even though U.S.-Libyan relations have a long way to go, at least now we can talk about U.S.-Libyan relations, and I think ultimately, that will be a good thing for the region, and it will be a good thing for the people of Libya.

QUESTION: Looking back, what was your worst moment?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think one of the hardest times for me was during the Lebanon war. I’m very glad that we were able to negotiate a ceasefire in that war. And I believe Resolution 1701, which ended the war between Israel and Lebanon, will show, it will stand as an effort that led to greater sovereignty for Lebanon, with the Lebanese forces throughout the country, with a strong government in place with Fuad Siniora. But standing next to Fuad Siniora in Rome as really, the country was being bombed to smithereens – things were very difficult – and having to say we can’t call for an immediate ceasefire that we can’t deliver, and that will ultimately lead back to the status quo ante with Hezbollah able to do this again was very difficult because I have so much respect for him.

QUESTION: If you could call a time out or a replay in foreign policy with a decision that you made and – you made a decision, you went back home and thought, gosh, you know, I wish I could do a redo of that –

SECRETARY RICE: Right.

QUESTION: - what would that be?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s going to take some time to go back and think about that.

QUESTION: Well, just your gut.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, my gut is that there are, frankly, things that we could have done better in the early stages in Iraq.

QUESTION: Like planning better the aftermath of the –

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no, we planned. We –

QUESTION: For the aftermath of the war –

SECRETARY RICE: We planned for the aftermath of the war and we planned –

QUESTION: Not well, though.

SECRETARY RICE: - and we planned – no, but the – some of the assumptions turned out to be, I think, erroneous. And probably the thing that I would do differently is I would go back and put less emphasis on what we would do in Baghdad and more emphasis on what we would do out in the provinces and with local governments and try to bring this from the bottom up rather than from the capital out.

And that’s why the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that put the military and the diplomats and the aid workers together out in the provinces, I think, has worked so well.

QUESTION: Staying in Iraq, the shoe-throwing incident, it was really a symbol in so many ways in the Arab world of utter contempt –

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah –

QUESTION: - for President Bush.

SECRETARY RICE: And it was one journalist among several who were sitting there respectfully, and I hope it isn’t allowed over time to obscure the fact that this was the President of the United States standing in Baghdad next to the democratically elected Shia Prime Minister of a multi-confessional Iraq that has just signed agreements of friendship and cooperation with the United States for the long term.

QUESTION: But the man may have been one journalist, but he was viewed throughout much of the Arab world as a real hero.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I –

QUESTION: My question is –

SECRETARY RICE: I have heard so many people –

QUESTION: My question to you is –

SECRETARY RICE: Yes?

QUESTION: - does it bother you that with all the diplomacy that you’ve done, President Bush’s policies, the policies that you’ve carried out –

SECRETARY RICE: Zain –

QUESTION: - that the U.S. is so loathed around the world?

SECRETARY RICE: Zain, the United States is not loathed. The policies of the United States are sometimes not liked. People don’t like that we’ve had to say hard things and do hard things about terrorism. People don’t like that we’ve spoken fiercely for the right of Israel to defend itself at the same time that we’ve advocated for a Palestinian state. But I have to go back. So many people in and around when that incident happened told me how embarrassed they were by the fact that that had happened. But the crux –

QUESTION: But didn’t it upset you? Didn’t it?

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, only that the focus of those who are supposed to be reporting for history didn’t focus on the historical moment, which is that this was the President of the United States in Baghdad, for goodness’ sakes, with a freely elected prime minister in a show of friendship. It didn’t get reported that the Iraqi band spent apparently several – all night trying to learn our national anthem and did it really rather well.

QUESTION: What’s your –

SECRETARY RICE: So that’s what I will remember about that trip.

QUESTION: What’s the most serious threat facing the U.S. today?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s hard to say because there are a lot of challenges. But I continue to believe that the vigilance to protect the homeland is going to be necessary. I know that every day, there are people who are plotting and planning and trying to launch yet another attack. And it is not just a matter of good luck that that has not happened yet. It takes vigilance. And yet I know every day that the terrorists only have to be right once and we have to be right 100 percent of the time, and that’s not a fair fight.

QUESTION: Do you worry that with the economy the way it is, that the focus is on the economy and that could distract from the more serious security threats that may be flying under the radar now?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I know that the security team for President-elect Obama will be absolutely focused on what they need to do on the security side. I don’t have concerns about that. I do believe, though, that we as a country have started to become a bit inured to the threat of terrorism, and perhaps 9/11 has faded a little bit in the memory. And we can’t afford to let that happen.

QUESTION: So you would want Americans to keep that at front and center?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I don’t want Americans to feel the way they felt on September 12th. I don’t even want Americans to feel the way that they felt on January 1st, 2002. But there needs to be enough support from the political system as a whole and from Americans as a whole to recognize that this is not a battle that we have yet won. We have really done a great deal of damage to al-Qaida. But al-Qaida is still an organization that is dangerous, and it’s going to continue to take hard work and tough measures to deal with them.

QUESTION: You’re really a part of the Bush family, considered as one of them. You’ve spent time at the White House, Camp David, at the ranch in Crawford. Did you ever feel that that close relationship that you have with the President prevented you from being brutally honest to him when –

SECRETARY RICE: Quite the opposite, quite the opposite.

QUESTION: You didn’t pull any punches, obviously, because you’re that close?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, absolutely not, absolutely not. And the President and I from – actually, from the time that I advised him on foreign policy during the campaign, have had a straight and honest relationship and one –

QUESTION: Did you have blow-ups?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I wouldn’t say that.

QUESTION: Do you blow up? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: We’ve had – no, we’ve had debates, and he’s always been willing to listen to me and to take my advice or reject my advice. But I’ve always given him my very best and most unvarnished advice. I’ve just always done it in private, and I think that’s the way that it has to be.

QUESTION: On Iran, do you worry that the Israelis could launch some kind of strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that could lead to a wider war? Is that a concern for you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the very fact that we ask that question demonstrates that the Iranian nuclear ambitions are a problem and a problem for the region. I believe that we’ve got a good diplomatic course. Although the Iranians have not yet changed their ways, they’re paying a heavy cost for what they’re doing. And there are voices in Iran that are beginning to wonder whether the isolation that they’re enduring is worth it.

So I really do think the diplomatic course is the way, the President does, and we’ve spent a good deal of time talking to the Israelis, and not just the Israelis –

QUESTION: And then what have they said to you –

SECRETARY RICE: No, I –

QUESTION: That’s not something they’ve taken off the table.

SECRETARY RICE: Isreal is, of course, going to keep its own options. But in talking to Israelis - and again not just Israelis, but Arab states in the region that also worry about Iran’s ambitions. Just yesterday at the UN, I was with a group of the Gulf Cooperation – some of the Gulf Cooperation Council states plus Egypt and Jordan and Iraq. And we were with the – they were with the P-5+1, the countries negotiating with Iran, and they were very clear that they worry about the nuclear ambitions of Iran. But they also worry about Iranian hegemonistic behavior.

QUESTION: What about North Korea? At every step in this deal, the North Koreans have made promises, they’ve broken them, they’ve made demands, you’ve made concessions, you’ve moved your red lines. Your critics say that really what happened was, was the North Koreans were just playing you like a violin.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we had an agreement September 2005 that the North Koreans agreed to denuclearize. It took them 30-plus years to get their nuclear programs; it’s going to take a while to get rid of them. But in the meantime, plutonium has not been made since that agreement has been signed, and that is worth a great deal because they were producing more and more plutonium for more and more devices. Secondly, they have dismantled – or they have disabled a good deal of their Yongbyon complex. But what we’ve insisted on is that the 80 percent of the verification protocol that we got, and that still stands, isn’t enough.

QUESTION: They won’t even – you took them off the terrorism list and –

SECRETARY RICE: Zain, let me go through this because it’s extremely important to understand that there was an agreement in September of 2005. There were a set of steps that the North Koreans took to first turn off and then begin to disable their reactors so that they couldn’t make more plutonium. We then have negotiated a verification protocol. But in doing so, there was some ambiguities in it.

QUESTION: They won’t put it in writing?

SECRETARY RICE: And - no, the verification protocol is in writing. The assurances that need to close those loopholes and ambiguities, that’s what we are going to insist and continue to insist that the North Koreans write down. But we have the complete support and complete agreement among the other powers: Russia, China, Japan, South Korea.

So again, they haven’t made any plutonium since this agreement has been made. They’ve been disabling. Yes, we took them off the terrorist list. They are still the most sanctioned country, by far, in the world, and they get really no benefit from being off the terrorist list.

QUESTION: What about the Middle East? You really put in a lot of effort.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: And made progress –

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: - when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: But do you ever think to yourself, gosh, you know, I really wish that we started this kind of engagement a long time ago at the beginning of the Bush Administration, not toward the end?

SECRETARY RICE: Zain –

QUESTION: Do you ever think about that?

SECRETARY RICE: No, because, Zain, it’s simply not realistic to think that you could have started this process with a raging intifada after Camp David had collapsed. People forget that Israelis were dying in Passover Seders and restaurants, not out in the West Bank but in Tel Aviv. People forget that Yasser Arafat was stealing his people blind and still dealing with terrorists, taking weapons from Iran, as we learned. People forget, apparently, that Ariel Sharon was elected not to make peace but to bring an end to the intifada. So the idea that somehow –

QUESTION: But even a year earlier could have gotten it closer to –

SECRETARY RICE: No. In 2001, 2003, Abu Mazen resigned as the – from the Palestinian Authority as prime minister because he was frustrated with Yasser Arafat. No, the conditions had to ripen. I think it’s a good thing that Israelis are out of Gaza, even if Gaza is a difficult place. I think it’s a good thing that after the Lebanon war, we were able to restart the beginnings of a process. And now Annapolis, as the Security Council just voted, is the basis going forward to build Palestinian institutions from the bottom up and to negotiate the boundaries of a Palestinian state from the top down. And that is the formula that is ultimately, with Arab and international support, going to lead to the creation of the state of Palestine.

QUESTION: A little further back to your past and your role as National Security Advisor. Two months before 9/11, you were warned explicitly that bin Ladin would attack the United States.

SECRETARY RICE: You know, this is –

QUESTION: A Council report suggests that you were –

SECRETARY RICE: This is simply –

QUESTION: - distracted.

SECRETARY RICE: This is simply not true. I’m sorry, it’s simply not true.

QUESTION: There was no –

SECRETARY RICE: There was a single item that said bin Ladin determined to attack – not when, where, how, under what circumstances; largely historical data about al-Qaida had always wanted to attack at home. And by the way, threats that were multiplying in July, principally about the foreign threats in foreign places. But I am the one who said, well, what if something happens at home, and therefore convened, or had Dick Clarke convene, the domestic agencies, which did not report to the National Security Council, to deal with the potential for a domestic threat.

QUESTION: What about this meeting on the 10th of July 2001 with the CIA Director and the Counterterrorism –

SECRETARY RICE: I believe, if you look at the 9/11 Commission report, it says that we responded to what was presented to us by the agency. But you know, the fact of the matter is, we did not have the capacity in our systems to share information between law enforcement, the intelligence agencies, and to be able to act in a very quick and decisive way. We did not have that system in place, which is why the reforms that have been made since 9/11 to create true counterterrorism capability in the National Counterterrorism Center; to allow for the sharing information between law enforcement on the inside, and Justice, FBI and the intelligence agencies; the ability to have a Homeland Security Department that can actually pay attention to threats that don’t just come from the center, but also out in the states and the localities; all of that comes after 9/11 because President Bush realized that there were real holes in our counterterrorism capability.

QUESTION: The worst breach of national security in the history of the United States came under your watch.

SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Did you ever consider resigning?

SECRETARY RICE: I believe that this was – this was –

QUESTION: Taking responsibility?

SECRETARY RICE: I do take responsibility. But this was a systemic failure. The United States of America had experienced terrorist attacks in 1993, in 1998 in our embassies abroad, in 2000 against the Cole, and then finally in September of 2001. But the fact of the matter is that we had not thought of this. We, the administrations before us, had not thought of this as the kind of war against the terrorists that we were going to have to wage.

And by the way, some of the things that people have been most critical of have given us, really, the capacity to respond. The ability to surveil terrorists through the Terrorist Surveillance Act so that there isn’t a gap between what terrorists are saying when they are abroad and what terrorists are saying when they’re in the United States. These are tools that simply didn’t exist prior to September 11th.

QUESTION: One of the issues raised by some of your critics, they say that as National Security Advisor you were really steamrolled by Vice President Cheney, by former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and didn’t present a broad enough view to the President. Do you think you did?

SECRETARY RICE: Certainly, the principals had their say, and as National Security Advisor I faithfully presented to the President what his principals were thinking – all of them. He met with them himself. But the fact is that I also told the President what I thought. And whether it is on the nature of the threat that we were facing with Iraq or how to respond to it, I gave him my best advice, and by no means was I kept from doing so by others.

QUESTION: Let me tell you what former Secretary of State Powell said just a few days ago on CNN. He said that he was disappointed, and I’m quoting, “Frankly, the National Security Council system didn’t function in a way that I thought it should have functioned. We didn’t always vet everything in front of the President.” You were running the show.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I – Secretary Powell and I are very good friends and we remain so. Any principal who ever wished to say something to the President, I facilitated it within hours – not within days, within hours. And the President sat with his National Security team, and everybody had an opportunity to speak their mind. And so if people didn’t tell the President something, it wasn’t because they didn’t have the opportunity to do so.

QUESTION: Do you believe that you won out over the hardliners, you won out over Vice President Cheney and former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and you really pursued your thinking and your ideas on Iran, on North Korea, and you’re still here and you won?

SECRETARY RICE: No, that’s no way to think of this. Look, everyone –

QUESTION: They didn’t want engagement with –

SECRETARY RICE: Everyone – everyone served –

QUESTION: - with Iran or North Korea. You did.

SECRETARY RICE: Everyone served –

QUESTION: You pushed that here at the State Department.

SECRETARY RICE: Everyone served the President and served honorably and put forward what they thought was the best course for the country. Ultimately, the President decided. We’re in a – we were in a different period after 2005 when I came to State than we were in 2001, 2002 and 2003. In many ways, we were harvesting here during my time as Secretary decisions that were taken in earlier times.

Yes, some people wanted us to engage North Korea bilaterally rather than in the – with the strength that the Six-Party Talks give us, with China with tremendous leverage, South Korea with tremendous leverage. Yes, we could have engaged them bilaterally. I don’t think it would have been very effective.

QUESTION: As you were trying to do this, as you pursued these policies here at the State Department, was Vice President Cheney a problem? How did you deal with him?

SECRETARY RICE: The Vice President and I have always had a very good relationship. And when the Vice President has views, he’s made them known, he’s made them known to me, and the President has decided. And the fact is that when you see a policy that’s being pursued here at the Department of State, it’s being pursued because the President has come to a decision that that’s what he wants to do. Yes, there have been differences inside the Administration. It would be odd –

QUESTION: Significant ones.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it would be very odd if you didn’t have significant differences about how to approach such complex issues. But I have always felt supported in the diplomatic course that we’ve been taking. I do think that on both North Korea and Iran, the fact that we’ve made it a multilateral diplomacy has been helpful. And it will leave a better foundation than if the United States had simply tried to take these on on its own.

QUESTION: You know, there’s all this talk with the next administration on the idea of a team of rivals cabinet. Does that work?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I hope that any president, and certainly President Bush, has been able to sort between different kinds of advice that he’s being given.

QUESTION: Well, based on your experience and what you saw, is it the whole groupthink and the rival ideas problem, or was it –

SECRETARY RICE: Rival ideas are fine. There’s no problem with rival ideas, and we’ve sure had our share of them. And there should be no problem in the President hearing rival ideas. In fact, I believed as National Security Advisor I needed to let him know when there were rival ideas, and I needed to let the principals know when they needed to go to the President and tell him something that they might have been saying to me but hadn’t said to him.

But ultimately, it’s the President’s to decide. And once the President has decided, everybody has to be on the same page and carry that out.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you feel the history books may write wrongly about an event or a situation that you were privy to that you feel strongly about that you wanted – that you want to make – to set straight?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Zain, you’ve known for many – you’ve known me now for a couple of years, and you know that I always say that today’s headlines and history’s judgments are rarely the same. But that’s because history has a chance to take time and look back on things.

And that’s the way that the history of this period will be written, not in the headlines. It’ll be written when people look at the effect that an Iraq that was once under Saddam Hussein, 300,000 people in mass graves, using weapons of mass destruction against his people and against his neighbors, an implacable enemy of the United States, when that Iraq is governed instead by a multiconfessional, multiethnic democracy that is friendly to the United States and won’t invade its neighbors.

QUESTION: Do you regret your role in the Iraq war?

SECRETARY RICE: I absolutely am so proud that we liberated Iraq.

QUESTION: Really?

SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. And I’m especially, as a political scientist, not as Secretary of State, not as National Security Advisor, but as somebody who knows that structurally it matters that a geostrategically important country like Iraq is not Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, that this different Iraq under democratic leadership –

QUESTION: But it still (inaudible) into total chaos and (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: No, under a democratic – well, but look, we are at a place now where because of difficult decisions that the President took we have an Iraq that is well on its way to being a multiethnic, multiconfessional democracy –

QUESTION: Many Iraqis don’t agree with you.

SECRETARY RICE: - that is stable. Well, you only have to look at the case. You only have to look at the declining violence. Fragile, yes, but declining.

QUESTION: Okay.

SECRETARY RICE: And you have to ask yourself, would you really rather have a Middle East, which you know has to be different than it’s been for these many years, would you really rather have an Iraq with Saddam Hussein at its center? That’s the other choice, and I don’t think that’s a good choice for the world.

QUESTION: What needs to happen for the world to say that the Iraq invasion was justified, positive, and right?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it will take some time for the effects of a change in Iraq to an implacable – from an implacable foe to a friend of the United States to show its effects. But when I see the Egyptian Foreign Minister go to Iraq for the first time in 30 years, when I see that the Iraqis stood up to Iran, despite all of Iran’s efforts –

QUESTION: And the Iraqis are showing through - throwing shoes at the President?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, an Iraqi is throwing a shoe at the President. Let’s remember again, Zain, if there was anything that was unfortunate about that incident, it was that it was what got reported. Because as a serious scholar of international politics, do I really think that 30 years from now or 20 years from now or 10 years from now, that will be – a shoe being thrown at the President is somehow going to be what was important about Iraq? Of course not. And that’s why when people report on today’s headlines instead of on history’s judgment, they make a mistake.

QUESTION: On a personal note –

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: What about you? What have people got wrong about you?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I don’t know and I really don’t care.

QUESTION: Oh, come on. What is it that –

SECRETARY RICE: All right, I’m not a type-A personality. How’s that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: No, I’m really not. I’m really not. I actually like to do other things, like –

QUESTION: You do?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: Like what?

SECRETARY RICE: I like to play the piano, and I like (inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: - and I like to watch football and I like to work out. And I like to be with my friends, and I have a terrific and supportive family. There are often many things I’d rather be doing than working. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, you know, we look at you – people look at you and they think, wow, you know, she’s so disciplined, she’s – you know, you’re so successful in Soviet studies and ice skating, and she’s so disciplined in playing the piano, and she wakes up at – was it – 4:30 every day and works out.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, yeah. That’s true.

QUESTION: Do you ever let loose?

SECRETARY RICE: Of course, I do. Look, there - I have never been somebody who was so disciplined as to not have fun in life.

QUESTION: Come on. Is it - really?

SECRETARY RICE: Really.

QUESTION: People would be surprised to hear it –

SECRETARY RICE: People would be surprised.

QUESTION: - because they think you’re so disciplined.

SECRETARY RICE: I – I’m –

QUESTION: Which is a good thing. But I mean – I know.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m disciplined, but I’m sure you’re disciplined, too, because anybody’s who’s successful in life –

QUESTION: I don’t wake up at 4:30, though. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no. That’s because you probably don’t have to be at work at 6:30, like I do. But, of course, anyone who is successful has to have discipline. But I also have a lot of fun in life. And I care about things other than just working. Friends and family and taking care of yourself and a chance to enjoy your avocation. And for me, I’m a person of faith and I have to have my time with my faith. That makes a well-rounded person, and I think I’m a well-rounded person.

QUESTION: Being on some of the trips with you, you’re under so much intense scrutiny. Everything revolves around you - the security, the motorcades, the press conferences, your plane, you know, the focus on what you’re wearing, the boots –

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I know. The boots. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: - the famous boots.

SECRETARY RICE: Right.

QUESTION: What’s it like for you being under that kind of scrutiny as a person?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I won’t miss it. I won’t miss it. There is a part of me that would very much like to turn that clock back and to go back to life as it was a while ago. And I recognize that that’s not really possible. But I also understand that I’ve had the greatest honor any American can have, and that is I had a chance to represent this great country, a country I love, a country that’s given me so much.

And I think we’ve done some really important and some good things. We made mistakes, absolutely. Every – we’re human. And these were turbulent and difficult times, times when we’ve met challenges that had been unknown before. But whatever scrutiny and intensity there was, it was worth it, because of that. And I also know that I can now go on to another chapter in my life. I want to use whatever platform I have to advocate the things that I care about.

QUESTION: Like education and children?

SECRETARY RICE: Like education and children and really fulfilling our great national belief that everybody can go from – anyone can go from humble circumstances, modest circumstances to great things.

QUESTION: Will you miss Washington?

SECRETARY RICE: No. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Has it taken that much of a toll on you? Because you’re dying to get back to California, and you keep saying that.

SECRETARY RICE: No, it’s not - it’s not that. Zain, it’s not – it’s not that I haven’t loved being here. But the truth of the matter is, from the first time that my family crossed the Kansas border into Colorado when I was six, I knew I should live west of the Mississippi. I just love the west.

QUESTION: Why?

SECRETARY RICE: Because it’s open and it’s different and it’s entrepreneurial and perhaps it’s not so focused on –

QUESTION: It’s not Washington. (Laughter.) It’s not so focused on itself.

SECRETARY RICE: No, I say that about – look, I’ll come back. I’ll be – I love some of the cities here, but I mostly really, really love being west.

QUESTION: Just a couple of last real quick things. Did you vote for Barack Obama?

SECRETARY RICE: I’m going to continue to say that I am Secretary of State.

QUESTION: We’re dying to know.

SECRETARY RICE: I know you’re dying to know.

QUESTION: Just (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: I know you’re dying to know. But the fact is that I didn’t get involved in partisan politics. I think I’ve made clear that I thought that both Senator McCain – John McCain and Barack Obama, now President-elect, conducted themselves in a way that made the country proud. It’s why people, I think, abroad were so focused on this election. Senator McCain showed what makes us great, that wonderful concession speech that he made that was so gracious. And it’s a great thing for the country that –

QUESTION: Was Sarah Palin a bad choice?

SECRETARY RICE: It’s a great thing for the country that President-elect Obama is demonstrating that America is what it says it is.

QUESTION: And your thoughts on Sarah Palin, just –

SECRETARY RICE: I think Sarah Palin is an accomplished woman who has taken a different life’s path and – than some of us and shows how much choices are open to women.

QUESTION: Lastly, are you going to write a tell-all book *in California*?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m going to write a book.

QUESTION: A tell-all book.

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) What’s a tell-all book?

QUESTION: Where you spill the beans about –

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, goodness. I –

QUESTION: - your meetings and your conversations. Or just something that give insight into –

SECRETARY RICE: I’d like to write a book about what life has been like in these roles in these incredible times. And of course, I want people to have insight. And they’re great stories. You know, they’re wonderful stories. And I’ll do that. And I want to write a book about my parents, who were extraordinary people.

QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Wow. Okay.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. You know, they were educational evangelists.

QUESTION: Yeah.

SECRETARY RICE: I mean, these are people who I think in their entire life probably never made more than $60,000 between them, because mother was a school teacher, daddy a high-school guidance counselor and then a university administrator. But they knew the value of investing in your child.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY RICE: And that’s a story that needs to be told.

QUESTION: Well, your story is an amazing one, and I’m sure it will continue to be. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

QUESTION: It’s been a pleasure and we’re going to miss you here. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well – and I’ll miss you and maybe we’ll get a trip again some time for some reason.

QUESTION: I’ll come out to California.

SECRETARY RICE: Come to California. It’s a great place.

QUESTION: Well, we’ll all – we’ll all come over. We’ll need a place to stay. Thank you. Thank you, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.


Filed under: Global 360° • Iraq • Israel • Zain Verjee
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