OTR Interviews

Condi Rice: ' We really are a country where people come from very humble circumstances and do great things'

Former secretary of state reflects on address at RNC and why she wants Mitt Romney to win in November


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Whenever you find yourself doubting it, just think about all those times that America made the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect.

Our revolutionary founding against the greatest military power of the time? A civil war? Brother against brother? Hundreds of thousands dead on both sides but we emerged the more perfect union. A second founding when impatient patriots were determined to overcome the birth defect of slavery and the scourge of segregation.

And on a personal note.


A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham. The segregated city of the south where her parents can't take her to a movie theater or to a restaurant. But they have her absolutely convinced that even if she can't have a hamburger at Woolworth's Lunch Counter she can be President of the United States if she wanted to be and she becomes the secretary of state.


VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary Rice joins us.

Nice to see you, Madame Secretary.

RICE: Nice to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: And boy, I'll tell you. The crowd loves it when you talked about how -- you know, how things have changed from the Jim Crow days in Birmingham for you. There's a lot of -- we still have a lot of improvement to do but just the -- you know, tremendous success of your career and the opportunities.

RICE: Well, thanks. It's an American story. And that's really what I set out to say tonight that America is exceptional, not because of our power, although our power is important to the world but because of who we are. And we really are a country where people come from very humble circumstances and do great things and that's a tribute to the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, it's certainly -- I mean I didn't know your parents. But when I hear you talk about them tonight or other times they never said you couldn't. And you know, it's like, boy, you just started from different odds than some of the rest of us.

RICE: My parents really didn't believe that there are any victims. They believe that if you worked hard. My parents used to say, you have to be twice as good. And it was sort of a matter not of debate but a matter of a statement about the truth as they saw it. And they just really believed in this country and its values even at a time when really for black people in the south, those values weren't very much in evident. So I was -- I'm very grateful that I had such terrific parents.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it was a big night for you tonight. I want to ask a couple of questions about what you said tonight. One of the things that you said is that the question of the moment is where does America stand?

RICE: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm curious what provoke that question?

RICE: Well, as I look around the world, particularly for instance in the Middle East where we're seeing the horrors in Syria, where we see really the young Iraqi democracy with really very little attention to it by the United States but we see in Afghanistan where we seem to be in an awfully big hurry to get out.

We are -- I think are provoking that question among our friends and our foes. And that's not a good question. The United States has to be resolute. People have to believe that we will finish jobs that we begin. And I do think that that's the question we face.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying that President Obama and Vice President Biden are not doing that? They're not answering that question? And what makes you so certain that a Governor Romney, if he's elected president, and Vice President Paul Ryan would do that?

RICE: Well, I think there's no doubt that our voice has been a muted one in last several years. Maybe a sense that when America speaks loudly, people will not follow us. But what we're seeing is that when America doesn't speak, people don't know really who to follow. And bad things start to happen.

I believe that Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, Mitt and Paul, understand first and foremost who we are. They know that we are a country whose best days can still be ahead of us. They know that we are a county that if we put our minds to it we'll solve our debt problem and our economic problems. And they know that we have to be leaders in the world. And so I do think that they will -- that they will speak in a way that lets people know where America stands.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now you have a rich experience in foreign policy. I mean for years secretary of state, before that you worked at the White House. Neither one of these gentlemen have foreign policy experience. And of course President Obama didn't have foreign policy experience. Does that give you any reason to pause? I know you've thrown -- you know, you've thrown your support obviously behind this ticket tonight. But any reason to pause?

RICE: Well, the fact is that foreign policy decision making is like almost any other kind of decision making. You have to have principles, you have to have values, you have to have people who know how to take a position to -- a tough decision to ask expert people around them for answers to tough questions, and I see those characteristics in Mitt Romney with his executive experience, and in Paul Ryan with his toughness on insisting on our fiscal responsibility.

The truth is that not very many American presidents come into the oval office with foreign policy experience. What to do o any given day about China or Russia or Iran, that will come. What you want is someone who has integrity, who -- someone who knows what America can mean in the world, someone who is prepared to lead. And the rest of it will soon take care of itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any doubt on your mind on who should be president?

RICE: No. No doubt. No.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not at all.

RICE: No. No doubt.

VAN SUSTEREN: You were instrumental at least as I understood from behind the scenes, in your early days, when President George W. Bush ran for president, that you'd advise him on foreign policy. I mean we always heard things like shuttling back and forth, who's adviser, who is not. Are you informally advising -- in this ticket? This Republican ticket?

RICE: I have -- I've done like service in the campaign. I was deeply involved in 2000. I talked to Governor Romney from time to time. We're friends. And I certainly feel that I can call him at any time and he calls from time to time but he has really good people around him. In foreign policy advising. That's is not a role for me this time around.

VAN SUSTEREN: You said tonight our military capability and technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan's hands. Are you saying they are not safe in President Obama's hands?

RICE: Well, I'm concerned about a couple of things. First of all that we not allow sequestration in the budget to damage our military strength. I'm concerned about missile defense. That really was the reverence to technology advantage. I don't know that there wouldn't be a move to try and compromise missile defense. So I can't say that I know what will happen in the future with our military power under the current president. I do think I know what would happen with Mitt Romney.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you say concern, is that sort of a nice polite word like it's sort of soft, like, well, and maybe it a little bit, you know, or are you saying, you know, look, you know, we've got a serious problem in our hand, we've got to do something different?

RICE: Well, look, we really had better be certain that whoever is president on January 21st understands that the military task force are not yet done. And much of this, much of the problem relates to how we're going handle the budget and the economy because that is really right now the threat to our military strength that we could start making cuts in our budget to hollow up the military again as we did after the end of the Cold War.

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

RICE: Nice to see you, too.