Condoleezza Rice: Will Work for Legacy

Condoleezza Rice talks about her legacy — and her next move.

By Philip Weiss
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Photo: Martin Schoeller)
But I think that’s what it’ll come down to."I ask her whether she could vote for Obama."I’m not going to answer that question."I point out that she was once a Democrat, and Rice dissolves in a nearly girlish laugh."I’m not going to tell you who I’m going to vote for!"Rice is more reserved when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She thinks "highly of her as well," she says, but turns the question at once to the issue of gender."People notice if you are black," she says. "People notice if you are female. We are certainly not either colorblind or gender-blind in this country, so I’m not suggesting that it isn’t a factor. But I think in the final analysis, people will take a look at the positions and they’ll take a look at the issues."Has Rice experienced a growing gender- and colorblindness in her own life?"I don’t know that it’s colorblindness," she responds. "There is a kind of transcendence if you hold certain positions. You know, more than anything for people, I’m the secretary of state — " Here she smiles with a hint of irony. "But it’s not always a bad thing, either, that there is some consciousness of race and gender. I’ve found that in places where women have not really been afforded full rights yet — for instance, in the Middle East — even very conservative politicians in the region will say, ‘You know, my daughter would really like to meet you,’ or, ‘Would you send a note to my granddaughter?’""And you do that?""I do, yeah. And similarly, I’ve found that I’ve been able to talk about democracy and democracy promotion in a slightly different way, which is to not hold the United States out as the ideal somehow. Recognizing our own history; recognizing, as I often say, that, you know, my ancestors in our first Constitution were three-fifths of a man…. And that has led people to believe, I think, that we are more humble about our own troubles in making multiethnic democracy work."The political problems before her are so complex and demanding, Rice seems almost baffled when I ask her about how she will reimagine herself in her mid-fifties, or even further on. She shakes her head."I don’t know," she says. "As I told you, I’m a terrible long-term planner. If I’d been a better long-term planner, I’d still be in music, as a musician someplace. So I’ll take it one step at a time. And for now, I don’t have terribly much time to think about the future." Philip Weiss is a New York-based journalist and author of American Taboo: A Murder in the Peace Corps. He blogs about Middle East issues and Jewish identity at philipweiss.org.Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2008.

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