CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Joining me here in Washington, Condoleezza Rice, secretary of State under President George W. Bush and author of “No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington.”
Secretary, nice to see you.
RICE: Nice to see you.
CROWLEY: On your 12 hour flyby of Washington…
RICE: Right, a flyby of Washington. Right.
CROWLEY: I want to start with some news of the day, because it seems to me in watching what’s come out of Penn State, you are a huge sports fan. I know you know Joe Paterno, at least who he is. You may even know him personally. And you also served as provost at Stanford. So you look at this from so many sides.
And I just wonder your reaction to what you see going on here.
RICE: Well, my reaction is that this is, first of all, a very sad affair for the victims, that this could happen or allegedly happen to children at this age is just a tremendous tragedy. And Penn State has got to get to the bottom of it. And any university that finds itself in this circumstance has got to get to the bottom of it and find out why the reporting wasn’t as it should be and it’s — it’s a crime, if, indeed, it is — is proven. It’s not a sports story, it’s a crime.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. And yet I wonder if, in some ways it’s a sports story in this way.
Do you think football on college campuses has become too much of a kingdom unto itself, to the extent that the kingdom is just warped in how they view things?
RICE: Well, that’s always a danger, particularly given the high profile of football programs. But I’ll have to tell you that when I was provost at Stanford, we tried very hard never to let any sport become a kingdom unto itself.
It goes to keeping it all in perspective, remembering that these are, first and foremost, student athletes, that they are there to get an education, that, yes, they play in glory on Saturdays, but they are part of the student body and that the athletic department is but a department of the university and has to be treated like any other department of the university.
So, clearly, something went wrong here. I don’t know enough about the circumstances to — to blame insularity or not. But I feel for the people at Penn State who were not as part of this tragedy, who are implicated, because it is a great university.
CROWLEY: Let me do a wild 180 here and take you to Myanmar, formerly Burma. We’re learning that the secretary of State is going to make a trip there.
CROWLEY: So do you see this as premature?
I mean there’s still — still a lot wrong with how Myanmar is running the place. They have let some dissidents go in recent weeks and months and years.
CROWLEY: Do you think it’s premature or is this right time, right place?
RICE: Well, I can’t judge, because when you’re inside, you know what may have been said to the members of the junta about the conditions for this trip, what will be said. I know Secretary Clinton and I’m sure that she will make a very strong case for human rights there.
But it’s a very repressive regime. And it has not made, I think, a strategic decision to change. And until you have that strategic decision, the United States has to keep advocating.
I have no quarrel, though, with taking the trip in order to advocate for exactly those positions and to use the platform to make sure that the Burmese are put on notice.
CROWLEY: Another country in the news a lot is Syria. The Arab spring did not arrive yet in Syria, at least in so far as the end of it.
RICE: Not yet, yes.
CROWLEY: You have Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who’s been told by the Arab League — who’s been suspended from the Arab League — and told, look, you’ve got to stop this repression, you’ve got to let some of these prisoners go. And yet I can’t find anybody at the State Department that thinks that’s actually going to happen.
What moves Al-Assad out?
RICE: Well, he is driving his country to the brink of civil war. That’s very clear. And it’s a very dangerous circumstance and Syria is no friend of the United States. Syria is the handmaiden of the Iranians throughout the region. And so the fall of Bashar al-Assad would be a great thing, not just for the Syrian people — that’s first and foremost — but also for the policies of the United States and those who want a more peaceful Middle East.
And so the toughest possible isolation and sanctions that we, the Europeans and others can manage — if the Russians and the Chinese won’t go along — then we have to do it on our own.
The good thing is that you have Turkey and other states in the Middle East calling Assad to account. I would hope that there would be efforts to help the opposition in ways that are appropriate. Again, when you’re not inside, it’s a little difficult to judge exactly what you can do for the opposition. But it’s time for Bashar al-Assad to go.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai, he said something in an October 23rd interview to a TV network that I wanted to kind of get your reaction to.
And he said: “God forbid if any war took place between Pakistan and the United States. We will stand by Pakistan. If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.”
Now, I don’t think the U.S. is going to go to war with Pakistan and I don’t think Pakistan is going to ask Afghanistan for help.
But nonetheless, we have poured money and blood and 10 years of the — you know, U.S. soul in Afghanistan and this is what we get for it.
RICE: Well, President Karzai said what he very often said when these statements came out, that he was taken out of context. A little hard to take that out of context, I have to admit.
But we have to. We have no option but to work with him as the elected president of Afghanistan. We have no option but to try and work with the elected government of Pakistan.
But the thing that really is the problem here is the extremism in Pakistan, and, I think, a rather head in the sand approach by the Pakistani government to what’s going on around them.
CROWLEY: I want to, just to finally end this, you know, sort of substantial talk about this is move you to China, because the president was in Australia and revealed that he’s going to put about 200 troops, maybe over time rotate 2,500 troops in and out of Northern Australia, which happens to be fairly near waters that China would like to dominate.
And we looked up defense spending in 2011 and saw that China is up about 12.7 percent, defense spending. The U.S. is up about 3.4 percent. Just to give you an idea of where the two countries are going and the — and we may take another hit with the Defense Department, depending on what happens on Capitol Hill.
But the question is, what do we fear about China?
RICE: Well, I don’t think that we should be in a posture of fear. But we should be in a posture of carefully watching this military buildup that is taking place in China, which does, frankly, seem a little bit outside for even regional ambitions.
But we have to make sure that it wields influence not through the old 19th century way of throwing military weight around. And, really, our best strategy is not to try to — the Chinese, I think — will not catch up with us militarily unless we, ourselves, don’t take care of our own military forces, exploiting our significant technological advantage and these alliances that we have.
CROWLEY: Madam Secretary, I want to ask you ask you to stick with me for a minute. We’re going to take a quick break.
But coming up, politics and policy with Secretary Rice.
We’ll be right back.
CROWLEY: We are back with former secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
Madam Secretary, let me talk to you a little bit about, as you may know, there’s a presidential race coming up.
RICE: Yes. Yes, I’m aware of that.
CROWLEY: — and there are a lot of Republicans running for it. We are coming up to a foreign policy debate. And I wanted to — there have been a lot of gaffes along the way when it comes to foreign policy on the part of most of these candidates.
I just wanted to play just a quick bite of a couple of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, with the president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa. We already were stretched to thin and he put our special operations forces in Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: OK, Libya. President Obama supported the uprising, correct?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Herman Cain at last even said, at some point, I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy.
I’ve watched you a lot. We traveled around with George W. Bush, who knew a lot about, perhaps, Mexican and border issues, being the governor of Texas. But not a lot about the world.
My question is, when Condoleezza Rice goes to the voting booth and votes, what do you look for just in terms of foreign policy?
What does a potential president have to know, as far as you’re concerned?
RICE: Well, first of all, a potential president has to know the role of the United States of America and that it’s an exceptional role, that we have, in fact, been willing to bear a lot of burdens over the last 60 plus years in order to promote a balance of power favor — that favors freedom.
I would say to the candidates, yes, you don’t have to know the ins and outs of foreign policy because nobody would expect that kind of exposure. But the basis of foreign policy, you can — you can master those during the campaign. And it’s important for the American people to know that you care enough about these issues to do that.
CROWLEY: I want to play you another clip of our presidential candidates when they were asked specifically about when should the U.S. get out of Afghanistan?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIDATE: I take a different approach on Afghanistan. I say it’s time to come home.
CANDIDATE: The timetable, by the end of 2014, is the right timetable for us to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan other than a small footprint of support forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIDATE: We need to have a significant change in foreign policy, which means that all the troops come home and turn that country back over to the Afghans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Now, you have others who say look, it should be up to conditions on the ground, etc. But we have the leading Republican talking about a timetable, which use to be like, oh, you can’t have a timetable, it just signals the enemy, etc. And then you have other candidates going now, now, come home now.
John McCain took a look at this and said he is a little worried about an isolationist trend in the Republican Party.
Do you worry about that?
RICE: Well, of course. You always have to worry, when there are difficult times at home, that people will say we really don’t have the time and energy for what we must do abroad. That’s always the danger.
I don’t think that debating, though, how long we’re going to be in Afghanistan really is a signal toward isolationism. We’ve been in Afghanistan a long time. People want to know —
CROWLEY: Are we there longer than you thought we’d be there?
RICE: Yes. Well, I knew it would be hard, because, you know, it’s the fifth poorest country in the world. It’s next to Pakistan. I think we didn’t — I didn’t see the effect that the bad decisions in Pakistan in 2006 to create, to make a deal, really, with the tribal leaders. That led to a kind of safe haven in Pakistan.
So we’ve been there a long time. It’s not surprising that people are trying to find an end in sight. But I don’t listen all that closely, on the campaign trail, to I will do this and I will do that, because the day you arrive in the Oval Office —
CROWLEY: It looks different.
RICE: It looks different.
CROWLEY: It sure does.
RICE: And you find that you can’t really turn this aircraft carrier of American foreign policy around on a dime anyway.
CROWLEY: It’s a lot like domestic policy.
RICE: Yes. that’s right.
CROWLEY: You can’t turn that around on a dime, either.
CROWLEY: And lastly, if a Republican should be elected next year and, say I’d like you to come into my administration in whatever capacity, because, frankly, presidents always go back to the last administration that’s of their party, is that something you’d consider?
RICE: I am a happy university professor. I’m going to remain one. I will be very happy to give somebody my e-mail and my phone number and California is not that far away for a phone call.
CROWLEY: But you’d rather stay in —
RICE: I really want to stay.
CROWLEY: That’s where you’re staying?
RICE: That’s where I’m staying.
CROWLEY: The private life of Condoleezza Rice.
RICE: Private life is wonderful and there’s no better private life than opening up worlds to young people that they might otherwise not have seen.
CROWLEY: Former secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, thank you so much for your time.
RICE: Thank you.
A pleasure to be with you.