Interview

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Washington Post Staff
Sunday, July 31, 2005; 12:00 AM

The following is a transcript of an interview conducted with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by Washington Post staff writers Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright on July 26, 2005, at 9:30 a.m. in Washington.

MR. KESSLER: Well, I'll start off. One thing that struck me when we were in Japan in March is there was a Japanese reporter that said, "Gee, being secretary of state must be really tough." And you kind of laughed and said, "No, it's wonderful." And I'm just wondering, briefly, why is it wonderful? What makes it wonderful?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, because it's such a remarkable time. First of all, it is a really good job. George Shultz once told me that he thought it was the best job in government; and since he's held several -- OMB and secretary of treasury -- he had some comparative perspective. And I think it's the combination of being able to work to effect policy but also to be able to represent those policies for the United States. I enjoy very much the diplomacy. I like the one-on-one diplomacy with other foreign ministers and with other people representing other governments. I really enjoy strategic problem solving, trying to get to a solution on difficult issues.

So that's part of it, but I also like going abroad and talking about our policies and talking about our principles and representing the United States. It's a great country and I'm proud to represent it. So it's a great job.

MR. KESSLER: Just a quick follow-up. One of your friends said that as national security adviser you were playing with 24 keys of the keyboard, and now you have the whole keyboard.

SECRETARY RICE: Wow, what a wonderful, great metaphor.

MR. KESSLER: Do you feel that way? I mean --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the jobs are really very different. There is no doubt. When you're national security adviser, you really are the president's staff and the responsibility there is very different. It's to prepare the president for his role. It's to -- a fair amount of it is making certain that the paperwork is right, making sure that all views are seen. It's a very different job. And here, not only is it important -- different because it's representational and because I act as secretary of state, but this is also a big organization that I'm trying to lead. And I like that. I've always liked kind of line responsibility to lead a big organization. When I was provost at Stanford I enjoyed everything about it, including I've sat in here at the State Department on a fair number of our budget reviews, what we call our high-level management reviews, because I intend to be able to connect personally in my decision making what we're trying to do in terms of principle to how we implement that through policy, to what resources we're putting to the problem, to how our people are executing the problems. And I can't do that if I'm uninterested in the details of how this place works. And I really enjoy that. Some of my favorite times here have been my budget and high-level management reviews.

MR. KESSLER: You don't want us to quote you on that? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, sure. It's a big part of being secretary. I think it's important.

MS. WRIGHT: You've defined your approach as "practical idealism." Can you, in non-policy wonk terms, explain what practical idealism is and how that's used on a specific issue that you've faced?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, American foreign policy has always had, and I think rightfully had, a streak of idealism, which means that we care about values, we care about principle. It's not just getting to whatever solution is available, but it's doing that within the context of principles and values. And at a time like this, when the world is changing very rapidly and when we have the kind of existential challenge that we have with terrorism and extremism, it's especially important to lead from values. And I don't think we've had a president in recent memory who has been so able to keep his policies centered in values.


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