“If I have any regrets, I might, in retrospect, have taken my mother’s advice and not gone on the Sunday shows.”

That was part of a lengthy response from Susan Rice when I asked her about her appearance on the Sunday talk shows where her comments on the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, turned her into a lightning rod. The then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations became such a target of criticism that she withdrew from consideration to become secretary of state to President Obama in the second term. But as his national security adviser, Rice is right where she wants to be.

For more conversations like this, subscribe to “Cape UP” on iTunes or Stitcher.

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“The challenge in this job … and the challenge in national security policymaking in the current context is we have to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Rice said in the 18th episode of “Cape Up,” recorded in her corner office in the West Wing of the White House. “Any national security adviser worth his or her salt has to be able to manage and lead on those myriad of issues simultaneously.”

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Our conversation took place a day before President-elect Donald Trump roiled U.S. foreign policy. First, he took a phone call from the president of Taiwan. Then, he went on a tweet storm against China, which protested the call to the current president and whose banks have lent the New York builder money. And while Rice ticked through a laundry list of those myriad issues on her plate, our discussion zeroed in on the United States’ fraught relationship with Russia and the difference between the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the present-day slaughter of Syrians.

I had just 21 minutes — one more than was allotted — with Rice and tried to make the most of it. I asked her whether she thought race played a part in the condemnation of her four years ago. Short answer: No. Had the mother of two had “the talk” with her son? “The talk about race, of being a black man in America, or which one?” Rice asked with a smirk as I realized the confusion with the “birds and the bees” talk. Short answer: Yes. And when I asked her for details on how she met her husband, she replied, “Oh, so you really want to go there?”

Listen to the podcast to hear Rice’s full answers to those questions and more, plus find out who her favorite foreign leader is and why.

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

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