OTR Interviews

Romney, the Bush doctrine vs. Obama's foreign policy and American exceptionalism, according to Condoleezza Rice

Former secretary of state on the Bush Doctrine versus Obama's foreign policy, American exceptionalism, Obama as an apologist and whether she'd consider being Romney's running mate


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 26, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It's a closely guarded secret, who will be the governor Mitt Romney's running mate? Is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the list of potential candidates? The answer may be yes. But what did Secretary Rice think? We asked her,


VAN SUSTEREN: Over the weekend in Utah at a Romney event, you took down the house. People apparently got a standing ovation. We got a huge amount of warmth and support if asked would you agree to be on the ticket with Governor Romney? If asked?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Greta, I shouldn't be asked because I don't want to run for office.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know you don't want to. There are a lot of things people don't want to do in life. I'm trying to gauge if you got cornered?

RICE: I don't think I'm going to get cornered. I've made it as clear as I can this isn't what I am equipped to do or what I want to do. I love public service, I love my time in government, I love policy. I'm not a politician. I wasn't cut out that way. I never ran for student government in high school. And so I'll find my ways to serve but this isn't the right thing for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: I would think one of the things Governor Romney looks at is looking for someone with foreign policy experience. That has got to be a consideration in this volatile world. There is no denying you have foreign policy experience.

RICE: But there are many ways to put together an administration so that you represent all of the challenges the President of the United States will face. It doesn't all have to be in the presidency and vice president.

I am quite certain because I know him and admire him and I trust his judgment Governor Romney is going to find the right person for the number two place on the ticket. The most important thing is going to be it's someone ready to serve, should something, god forbid, happen to the president. That is the most important characteristic of the vice president. And I know he's going to make a good choice but I know it won't be me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you said going back to secretary of state or some other. You'd probably say no. But I want to throw out a statistic. According to some statistics Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent 71.9 days of her life in an airplane. You spent 93.7 days of your life in an airplane.

RICE: That is sad. Well, it's a job requiring getting out there. And even in the era of modern technology and you can pick up the phone and you can do video conferences, there is nothing like the personal contact. And I think what this demonstrates is that person secretary of state has to travel, has to travel widely because the in box for the world is really the American secretary of state's inbox. So I think that is really what those numbers show, you have to get out there and represent the United States. Have you to try to properly show you're out there.

I always thought it wasn't just number of people to which you traveled or how much you traveled but what are you trying to do. I think in those numbers I went to the Israel and the West Bank and probably something like 22 or 23 times.

VAN SUSTEREN: And 85 countries, too.

RICE: You've got the data there. That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you compare and contrast the Bush doctrine with Obama foreign policy? What is the big picture difference, or similarities?

RICE: Well, there have been similarities, particularly in fighting the war on terrorism. Think president Obama has benefited from the instruments the President Bush put in place, whether it is the ability to remotely strike targets or whether it's frankly most of the intelligence I think that they're still operating on came to them from the Bush administration, the integration of intelligence and mill near a way I think helped us to get Usama bin Laden. So many tools have been passed on. It's not surprising the fighting of the war on terrorism looks similar.

I do think President Bush had a strong understanding of how exceptional the United States is. And a very strong understanding that if America doesn't lead, from its perspective, that the world should belong to free markets and free peoples, then either you will have chaos or someone will lead who doesn't believe in free markets and free peoples.

And so President Bush was willing, against a lot of criticism, to assert American leadership. Sometimes, we make mistakes. I'd be the first to say that. But when you look around the world, when you look at the Middle East these days, you're looking at freedom agenda unfold. We had hoped it could unfold before people had to be in the streets and places like Egypt. and I'm not certain that I see that same level. I'm pretty certain I don't see that same level of willingness to assert this, that the United States is indeed exceptional, the United States isn't just the lowest common denominator of what the security council can deliver.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a cost to that? Is there a long term cost?

RICE: I think that people need countries in the international system, need signals from the United States about where we stand, and sometimes they'll oppose us. But very often they'll rally around signals.

If you look at a place today like Syria, I understand that this would be a very good thing if we were able to bring the entire international community around the view that Assad has to go and the Syrian people deserve a better few Turk it would be great if the U.N. would do that. But the Security Council rarely does hard things.

And so here if the United States is willing to step forward and help organize the response, to say to the opposition, future of Syria has got to be a democratic, multi-confessional Syria in which all Syrians can participate. And on that basis we will help you, the opposition, then people will rally around that.

And when the United States doesn't do that, you get the regional players playing their own agenda. You start to get the kind of chaos you're seeing with Syrian fighters firing on Turkish planes with Lebanon, with problems in Lebanon and southern Iraq. So yes there is a cost when the United States does not stake out a ground.

VAN SUSTEREN: I watch Fox News and I see a lot of people say that President Obama is apologizing for America around the world. And that is sort of antithesis of exceptionalism. Is that a fair criticism of President Obama or not?

RICE: There are differences here in how he's responded to various countries. I don't care, really, if the President of the United States says well, we made mistakes in the past. That's fine. That's fair game. I think it's much more important you have an affirmative view of what the United States can do and that you don't try to reduce the United States to the lowest common denominator of what everybody will accept.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that what he's doing?

RICE: I see elements of that. I think when people talk about leading from behind which is a kind of oxymoron, you're seeing some of that.

And the United States, the only thing the world hates more than unilateral American leadership is an absence of American leadership, because the international system is a system. It has certain rules, power relationships, and people respond to those. If the United States is not setting that agenda, then, someone else will, and that might be a country that doesn't believe in free markets and free peoples.

And, Greta, I know that the objection is the last 10 year we've done too much of that. It's got us into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand all of those arguments. And I certainly understand the argument which I share, that we have a significant job of internal repair to do. We've got to stop spending money that we don't have and borrowing it. We have to deal with our entitlements and K-12 education and immigration. I understand all of that. I understand the American people will not lead if we're not strong at home.

But we don't have the luxury of retiring to the side lines in order to repair at home and then, reentering the international system because it will have moved on. And it will have moved on in directions that are not good either for our interests or our values.

VAN SUSTEREN: Madam Secretary, always nice to see you.

RICE: Nice to see you, too.