“Whatever failings or flaws anyone has get highlighted when under stress. So it is important in Washington to never neglect the importance of relationships, and not letting differences become personal. Find ways even for people to get away together.”
“The other thing to be watchful of is it’s less the people themselves than the people who are egging them on.”
“Don’t play the resignation card unless you intend to carry through.”
Bill: I noticed from Decision Points that you and President Bush became good friends. Did that make it difficult?
Rice: We did have a very close relationship, and it was for the most part tremendously helpful. You really want to be able to make decisions without having to “call home” all the time, and you can make calls when you understand the president and have the framework worked out. The challenging thing to remember is that he may be your friend but he’s also the president. Second, use the relationship that you have to be a truth-teller for the president. When you are in a position of authority, you need truth tellers around you. You need to do it in a way that is right as well — only in private, for example. One reason I could say difficult things to the president was because he knew it was never going to show up in the NY Times. I knew also that the president valued what I thought. You have to develop a level of trust where your friendship becomes a place from which you can have the difficult conversations.
Bill: There are so many people in the US who believe you are eminently qualified to be president. You have been emphatic about saying that is not going to happen. But I think some of us would be curious, because you have the leadership, the vision, and the experience. There must be a deep and abiding reason you have chosen not to go that path.
Rice: I have never been a great planner, for example saying “in ten years I’m going to be doing this.” Because I’ve always in my life sought guidance through ambiguity. I love policy, not necessarily politics per se. You have to take energy from what you do as a politician, or it will drain you. On the campaign trail, Bush would be energized at the end of the day and I’d be ready to go to bed. The DNA was different. I think I’m called to do something different.
There’s lots I want to do in public service, but it doesn’t have to be elected office.
Bill: You are clear in your book that you are a follower of Christ, and a serious one. When you go to church, what are you hoping will happen to you when you sit down in church?
Rice: First and foremost, quiet time with God. I pray every night, I try to have meditation in the morning. But I have to tell you life enters. It enters my mind, it enters my spirit. It is hard to find the quiet time of rest. I find church is a place that that can happen to me.
Bill: (Joking) … so maybe you’d be fine if the preacher didn’t preach?…
Rice: No, no — I’m a minister’s daughter, remember! I’m getting to the necessity of preaching. I don’t want to hear sermons on current events [meaning, I think, politics from the pulpit]. What I especially value is coming away seeing things differently because of the sermon. I’m also a musician, and the music impacts me. Especially in the company of other believers.