Condoleezza Rice Opens Up on White House Years, Talks 2012
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Since leaving office, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stayed almost completely silent about the eight years she served at the top levels of the George W. Bush White House. All that silence ends now. Her brand new book, «No Higher Honor: A Memoir in My Years in Washington.» It hit the book stores today. And joining me now, before a studio audience made up of college and graduate school students, we are very honored to have with us the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Madame Secretary, great to see you again. How are you?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be with you. I’m great. Thank you.
HANNITY: Well, you know, you told a story in the book. I love this about you. I love the fact that you are a pianist, and I watched you play. You are amazing.
RICE: Well, thank you.
HANNITY: And you also like Led Zeppelin.
RICE: I do love Led Zeppelin.
HANNITY: Yes. I have a hard time putting those two together.
RICE: Kind of an eclectic taste in music with (INAUDIBLE) Zeppelin.
HANNITY: You know, listen, «Stairway to Heaven,» a little Mozart, it works. And I also, I’ve always lead the fact, if you had your way, you would be the commissioner of the National Football League.
RICE: Right. Although, I told Roger Goodell, who I have gotten to know, that when I was struggling with the Iranians and the Russians every day, his job looked really good, but from Northern California, it doesn’t look so good anymore. And so, I think I will stay as a university professor instead.
HANNITY: Well, I think a lot of students here will probably be glad to hear that. Your story is fascinating. I would love to get inside the minds of the people that were there. It’s very interesting. When you made the transition after four years to become secretary of state, you knew this was going to be a tough job. You knew it was going to be a lot of traveling. You tell a story where a person that would drive you to the airport, and you would have these long 12, 18 hour flights, you would always asked that person, what are you doing this weekend?
RICE: Right. I had wonderful drivers. At the State Department, it was a man named Otis. The only advice I gave Hillary Clinton really about personnel was keep Otis because Otis was one of those people who could make his way, if you needed to get some place in five minutes, and you only had three, he could do it.
HANNITY: He could get you there.
RICE: But he’s one of those wonderful African-American civil servants that did his job. He had been a non-commissioned officer in the military. And I would ask him as we were going out to Andrews Air Force Base and very often I had already worked a full day, grabbed my bags, got in the car and I would say, Otis what are you going to do this weekend? He said, well, I’m going to go to my daughter’s basketball game and I’m going to go for a long run, and I thought, you know, I’ve lost all conception of weekends.
HANNITY: You know, that’s one of the things as I’ve interviewed President Bush, and I’ve interviewed Vice President Cheney, and I’ve interviewed Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld and over the years Colin Powell, I don’t know if people understand the enormity of sacrifice for public service. And as we are going to get into your story here tonight I’m thinking about all the guys that are running for president. As we discuss this, Herman Cain is under tremendous fire. An allegation that I don’t think should have made it into the press. And, you know, we watched Clarence Thomas in the hearings. We have an African-American president, and I’m thinking these are great strides for the country, and I wonder if at times we don’t take a step back, especially it seems African-Americans that are conservative are excoriated on a regular basis. And I wanted to get your opinion on that. You served for all these years.
RICE: Well, first of all, politics are a little rough, right? And we know that. And it’s always a little bit rough and tumble. And when you go into the political arena you can expect it. I know that many, many times I would get up and I would look at the newspaper and I would say, is that the person that they are talking about? Is that me that they’re talking about? But you are there because you want to do a job and the people who are running for president I think knew that they signed on for this.
And so, we will get through this. The truth will come out, and hopefully we can get past it — so that the very interesting debate that we are having on the Republican side about how to think about the size of government, how to think about dealing with our core issues like education and immigration, that we can get back to that. But I’m not surprised. And I will tell you, Sean, I don’t like to play the race card on either side. I would like to give us more credit than that.
HANNITY: But there is a demographic issue that we cannot ignore, and that is in almost every election, African-Americans, about 90 percent, vote Democratic. And many close friends of mine that are conservative that are African-American are called the most horrific names. What do you make of that phenomena? You were called horrific names. Harry Belafonte comes to mind.
RICE: Yes. And I always told everybody, I’ve been black all my life. You can’t tell me what it means to be black, I don’t need you to tell me what is it to be black. And so, I simply ignore it. And actually, I would say to people that think blacks have to think a particular way, you are the one who is actually prejudiced. If you were looking at somebody who was white, you would not say well, you have to think a particular way. And so if you look at somebody who is black and you say that about them, then check your own prejudice.
HANNITY: But, you know, it was very strong language. Herman Cain, and I interviewed him, as he has ascended in the polls, I mean, against all odds, but he’s had an incredible life. You have a pretty fascinating family background, so does he. I thought a great book I read was by Clarence Thomas «My Grandfather’s Son.» A must read by the way, all you students, a homework assignment. A great book. He grew up poor, the discipline of a grandfather brought him to be a Supreme Court justice. Both Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain have used a term «high-tech lynching,» a powerful statement by both of them. And I wanted to get your opinion on it.
RICE: You know, I actually don’t like language that is too evocative.
HANNITY: That’s too evocative?
RICE: I just think the language is extremely evocative. Clarence Thomas is a friend of mine. He’s a very good friend of mine. He was incredibly supportive of me the whole time that I was in government. And I think the world of him. I’m sorry that he went through what he went through. But I think we need to get past the language of race on both sides. My view is that I try very hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. And if I give them the benefit of the doubt, then I’m actually empowering myself because the minute that I give in to racial stereotype or to your high profile language about me, now I’ve lost, I’ve lost control. And so, I just don’t engage in it.
HANNITY: But you work for a very conservative president, you had very nice words to say about President Bush in your book during very consequential, historically consequential times. But yet other people, if they take a conservative position and they are African-American, why are they beaten up so badly and called these horrific names? You’ve seen it. You’ve heard it.
RICE: Of course, I have.
HANNITY: You’ve been a victim of it.
RICE: Of course, I have. But as I said, Sean.
HANNITY: Doesn’t matter.
RICE: No one can tell me how to be black. I know how to be black. I’ve been black all my life. And again, if you look at a black person and you say that person has to think in a particular way, I don’t care if you are white or you are black and you say that, then you’ve got a prejudice. You can’t see beyond race to give that person the dignity, the ability to think as they might. So I really don’t engage in this. I simply say to people, you know, I’ll think what I think and if you have a problem with that, it’s your problem, not mine.
HANNITY: Do you have a favorite for president in the GOP?
RICE: No. I like where we are right now. This is the best time, actually, in our political system because we have an incumbent in the White House and we have a party —
HANNITY: Yes. I know. I report on him a lot.
RICE: Right. And you do. And we have a party that is going to challenge. It happens to be my party that’s going to challenge. And I think it’s a good thing that we will get a chance to watch people over the next several months, we will get a chance to watch them under pressure, we will get a chance to watch them under the (INAUDIBLE) lights. I’ve never actually said that our political system is too tough on people. You learn a lot in these primaries about how people will stand up to pressure. And so, you know, we will have a nominee soon and then I will support that nominee.