Condoleezza Rice's prayers for Gabrielle Giffords in Sarah Palin's crosshairs.

Piers Morgan interviews Condoleezza Rice

MORGAN: Condoleezza Rice rose to the highest level of American politics, but a lot has changed in the two years, from the Tea Party to the crosshairs politics. What does she think of the new landscape?


MORGAN: There’s been a big debate, Dr. Rice, in the country since what happened to Representative Giffords and, obviously, you yourself have been in high office. You’ve been presumably on the receiving end of similar threats. There wasn’t a threat there but you’ve had threats like that. You’ve had to live in the fear of potential assassination.

What were your thoughts about what happened and what do you think about the overall debate about aggressive political rhetoric being possibly an incendiary fuel to people who are perhaps a bit unstable.

RICE: Well, first of all, I — I think we all want very much to have continuous prayers for Representative Giffords and for those who were harmed as well as for the families with those who have lost their lives. It’s a terribly sad set of circumstances for the United States and it’s one of those days that’s going to live in all of our collective conscious.

I think it’s probably best to take some time and step back and to know what horrible motivations and dark motivations there may have been for — for this young man. And so I, myself, think it’s not a good time to jump to conclusions about what the relationship may have been to — but it’s been a spirited debate, no doubt, and this set of events.

Gabrielle Giffords in Sarah Palin's crosshairs

MORGAN: As — as a principle, do you think it’s wise for any politician, anyone in the world, not just America, to use imagery like crosshairs? To use the language of the gun in –in that kind of way?

RICE: Well, the fact is that our politics is pretty rough. It is. I — I certainly —

MORGAN: But should it — should it be that rough?

RICE: — experienced it myself. Our politics has been rough for a long time. It didn’t start two years ago. Our politics has been rough for a long time.

And frankly, people across the whole spectrum use colorful and sometimes language that might be considered incendiary.

MORGAN: But your administration was a past master in that kind of language. I mean, it’s been pretty — pretty rough.

RICE: Well, I — well, we used pretty rough language for the people who committed the act of war against us on September 11th and I have no regrets for using very tough language about them. But all of that —

MORGAN: What about towards — what about towards opponents?

RICE: Well, let me just say — all of that said, I would like to see the politics cool down. I would like to see it — us cool off as a country. I’d like us all to be more careful what we say about one another and give politicians time to solve some of these very difficult issues that we face.

MORGAN: How did you deal psychologically with the threats that came to you personally when you were in office, because you must have had a lot.

RICE: Well, I — for the most part, you just try to ignore them. And you — when you’re in government, of course, you have protection and you have people who are looking out for your wellbeing, but you can’t live in a state of fear. If you do, then yes, you’re not going to do your job very well and you’re going to give yourself high blood pressure, which probably isn’t worth it.

So I — I tried, for the most part, to — to take precautions and I still do. I’m careful to take precautions. But I — I never lived in fear that something was going to happen. You, you know, there — there’s a God and I think I trust in Him.

MORGAN: How’s President Obama doing, do you think?

RICE: Well, I’m very fond of the president personally. I knew him when he was a senator in — and when I was Secretary, he was on Senate Foreign Relations, so I got to know him.

MORGAN: You were a Democrat.

RICE: I was for —

MORGAN: Then you became a Republican.

RICE: I was — I was a — I was a Democrat who voted for Jimmy Carter.

MORGAN: Yes. You flirted on both sides of this divide. I mean, could you be tempted to vote —

RICE: Well I was — I — I — let’s — it was 1976 when I was a Democrat, so let’s not extend that too far.

MORGAN: But could you have been tempted, do you think, in other circumstances, to vote for President Obama?

RICE: Well, I think that he is a fine person and he’s doing his best for this country and I was personally quite gratified that America elected a black president. And I went to the State Department press room that morning to say how — what it said about our country. It said that our country is what it claims to be. And so, all of that was great.

I’m a committed Republican. I believe very strongly in individual liberty. I tend not to think much in terms of group politics. I really am a kind of small government person and I’m most certainly a fiscal conservative and strong on national defense.

But I think there’s more commonality in the middle of our country than there might —

MORGAN: Given the way that President Obama is now talking about being more inclusive with the Republicans and getting America back on its feet — it seems to me a bigger picture here than just the normal partisan nonsense that goes on in Washington which is getting America revived as a nation.

I mean, if he came to you, President Obama, as I would if I was him, and said, you know, what, Condoleezza, I need someone like you in my administration. Would you do it?

RICE: He doesn’t need me in his administration. He has very fine people around him.

MORGAN: But if he did. Hypothetically?

RICE: I don’t do hypothetical, Piers. We don’t do anyone any good. But the fact is —

MORGAN: Actually, that can’t be true.

RICE: It’s true.

MORGAN: In office, you must do hypotheticals all the time.

RICE: Well, but you keep — you keep them to yourself because the minute they turn out not to be true, you’re in trouble.

Look, he has — he has very fine people around him. I’ve had the chance to go. He nicely invited me to the White House when I was in Washington in October. We sat. We talked about the whole range of foreign policy issues. I was a supporter of — of the START Treaty, for instance. And so, when I find it helpful to speak on these issues I will.

But I also —

MORGAN: Would you — would you join the Tea Party?

RICE: Well, let me — let me finish with the —


MORGAN: Assuming you’re going to join him (INAUDIBLE)

RICE: Well just for one second — because he is my president, too. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything. But I know what it’s like to have people on the outside tripping on you when you’re on the inside, because it’s a lot easier out here than it is in there, and so I’ve kept my criticisms to myself.

Now, as for the Tea Party, I think we shouldn’t be afraid of grassroots movements. These are, I think, overwhelmingly people who see a direction in the United States with which they disagree and they want to bring it to the attention of their leaders in Washington that the conversation in Washington and the conversation at their kitchen table isn’t the same thing.

MORGAN: But do you think that the Sarah Palin phenomenon which has come about in the last year, which I’ve watched with fascination. From — obviously I can’t vote either way, so I — I look at this and think how interesting, in the sense that when the Republicans come to do battle with the Democrats at the next election, I’m still trying to work out if she would be helpful or a hindrance to those chances.

Because if — if your party gets split by her and the Tea Party, isn’t that a big problem for you?

RICE: Well, there’s a long logic chain there. First of all, she is an important and consequential figure in American politics. She was the governor of a state, and —

MORGAN: Could you win with her do you think?

RICE: I — I have no — I do international politics.

MORGAN: You have an idea.

RICE: I don’t. I really don’t, because I think the political landscape is going to unfold in ways that we may not even understand over the next couple of years. Two years is a lifetime in politics.

Now, the Republican Party will, I’m quite certain, put forward a very good candidate. I don’t know who that will be. The Democrats will undoubtedly — most likely put forth President Obama —

MORGAN: Just to —

RICE: — and we will then have that debate.

MORGAN: — you’re not fearful of that candidate being Sarah Palin?

RICE: I — I’m not fearful of the — the candidates that are on the horizon.


RICE: I think there are a lot of very good people there. And when they go around the track a few times — because the American political system is very good at weeding.

MORGAN: Well, when they go around the track and start weeding, they might of course come back to you.

RICE: No, they won’t do that.


MORGAN: What ambitions do you have left? See I just can’t imagine you’re not going to be back in high office.

RICE: Oh, I can.

MORGAN: Really?

RICE: I can imagine that. Of course.

MORGAN: Isn’t there a little part of you that think — you know, something — we’ve had the first African American President. I can’t be that, but I can be the first female president.

RICE: No. I don’t really want to run for office.

MORGAN: Why? I mean you’re still very young, you’re fit.

RICE: Well, I’m young — younger.

MORGAN: But amazing experience.

RICE: I’m not very young anymore. But I —

MORGAN: What are you 30?

RICE: Thank you.

MORGAN: Thirty-nine?

RICE: We’ll leave it at that .

The last thing that I can imagine myself — well, maybe not the last thing, but I cannot imagine myself running for office. Not because politics is so tough, but uh, it’s just not me. I’ll do public service. I’m very involved in K-12 education; I’m very involved in, you know, trying to help the State of California, but —

MORGAN: Yes, but you were running the country? That’s not going to get your juices flowing, is it? RICE: It’s not going to get my juices flowing.

MORGAN: It’s like being a big NFL player and then you get, you know — you suddenly go and play little league somewhere. It’s not all the same.

RICE: No. Playing — oh, so you consider being a university professor little league; do you?

MORGAN: Compared to Secretary of State.

RICE: Compared to Secretary of State, it has a lot of things in common. Trying to persuade nineteen year olds is not all that different than trying to pursued some heads of state.

MORGAN: So look, ten years time, you can either be the first female president, or you can be happily married to a hunky NFL football player.

RICE: I’m well beyond —

MORGAN: If there are any guys I know who — who watch football all day long —

RICE: — Let’s — let’s put it this way —

MORGAN: — and eat fried chicken.

RICE: I’m — I’m well beyond the age at which I’m about to be married to an NFL football player, but I am — very much love what I do. I love being a university profession. I know that’s hard to believe. I know it’s hard for people in Washington to believe, because Washington is very much its own conversation.

But there is nothing better than being in a classroom with really, really brilliant students, and opening up new worlds to them in the way that a profession opened up new worlds to me.

Additional video clips from the interview can be viewed from Piers Morgan’s blog on CNN –
Condi Rice talks politics, parents and the War on Terror.

Transcript of the full interview (CNN)

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