Opinion: Condi Rice has Hillary Clinton over for dinner and crises talk

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Following her boss’ orders to make the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration as smooth as possible, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had the future secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, over to her offices Monday for a first day of briefings since the New York senator’s nomination.

And then Rice had Clinton over for a private dinner in her apartment in Washington’s historic Watergate complex. No word yet on what the two women ate. But Rice, an Alabama native, has for many years claimed to cook a mean Southern fried chicken.

(UPDATE: We thought you’d check back. The two women actually ate sea bass, wild rice, mushroom soup and fruit. Not prepared by Rice.)

And the talk ran the gamut of global crises confronting the United States.

Clinton will become only the third female secretary of State after Rice and Madeleine Albright, who served in the administration of Clinton’s husband.


After Jan. 20 Rice intends to return to Stanford University, where she was provost before becoming chief foreign policy advisor to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999, to work on education reform and write a book.

She also hopes to get in a little more piano playing, an early childhood passion. In fact, last week Rice performed for Queen Elizabeth II in London. (See photo below.)

Rice made the tour of several Sunday shows last weekend. She told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos she had known Clinton for years and had talked to her recently.

The ABC host tried to get Rice into a political discussion about the senator and unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate. But Rice would have none of it. Here’s what she said:

‘Well, I’ve known her for a long time, ever since she brought her freshman daughter to Stanford, when I was provost at Stanford. I think she’s going to be terrific.’

STEPHANOPOULOS: What about this model? Bring back really an old model for secretary of State. A politician at the top of her game. You know, we saw back in the 19th century, Clay, Webster, Calhoun -- all these secretaries of State. At this time, is that political background a plus or a minus?

RICE: President-elect Obama has made his choice, and he’s made a terrific choice. Hillary Clinton is somebody of intelligence, and she’ll do a great job.

She also has what’s most important to being secretary of State, and that is that you love this country, and you represent it from a basis of faith in its values. And I know that she will do that.

I’ve watched her -- I watched her do it at the conference in Beijing on women. I know that she was someone who felt strongly about the Balkans and the need to stop that terrible killing there. So, from that point of view, she’s going to be great.

Over on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ host Chris Wallace asked Rice to reflect on American progress from the secretary’s early days growing up in segregated Birmingham. We’ve got Rice’s eloquent observations (and a childhood photo).

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ Dec. 7, 2008:

WALLACE: Finally, you say that after you leave office, you’re going to go back to Stanford and teach. And you’re also going to write a book about your parents who brought you up in Birmingham, Alabama. I’d like you to take a moment or two, if you could, to reflect on the journey from the little girl in Birmingham, heavily segregated Birmingham, Alabama, to being secretary of State, and now to leaving as a new African American president takes office.

RICE: This is an extraordinary country. It’s a country that has started to overcome these old wounds, or has overcome these old wounds, in remarkable ways. But you know what it really says about America is that it’s who we claim to be we are.

I remember very well segregated Birmingham. I remember when you couldn’t go into a restaurant. And now, after two back-to-back black secretaries of State, you’re going to have a black president of the United States. And around the world, people say how could that be? And I say it’s because we are America.

And I’ll tell you, Chris, the most important thing in remaining that way is confidence in what my parents had confidence in, and that is that if you give people a chance, if you educate them well, then they can achieve great things.

And it really doesn’t matter where you came from. It matters where you’re going. And it really doesn’t matter if you came from modest circumstances, you can do great things.

And so that’s really the part of America that’s splendid. It’s, yes, the racial issues that we’re overcoming. But what we’re really demonstrating by this is that that great national myth -- and a myth isn’t something that’s untrue, it’s just outsized -- that great national myth of the log cabin is very much intact.

The full Fox News transcript is available here. The full ABC transcript is available here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Top photo: Rice and Clinton. Credit: Associated Press