When: Today, Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 7PM ET
Where: CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report”
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tonight, Wednesday, August 29th at 7PM ET on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report.”
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
Let me just ask you beginning, Ann Romney's speech last night. Obviously, the talk of the town. There were some camera shots of you. You looked a bit emotional as you were listening to it. What was your take?
Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Oh, I thought she was so powerful and compelling. And it was when she said, 'Some people think we have a storybook marriage, but storybook marriages don't have a chapter on MS and on breast cancer.' My mom died of breast cancer and I know what that does to a family and how hard it is. And she--my mom struggled with it for 15 years, survived it a long time. But I just sat there thinking, 'This is a real woman who has had the support of her family,' and it was just really wonderful.
KUDLOW: Was the clincher when she said about Mitt, her husband, of course, a love affair going back, whatever, 40, 45 years...
Sec. RICE: Yeah.
KUDLOW: ...which I just love, 'He won't fail.' Did that get the job done? `He won't fail.'
Sec. RICE: That got the job done. That got the job done because she knows him better than anyone. And it was a personal testimony to Americans about what they can expect from this man. And I think we could see through Ann Romney just a glimpse of what we had all seen in small glimpses, that this is somebody of integrity and toughness and dedication. And you know, personal relationships matter. If you are good in your personal relationships and you are good to your family, it portends well for being someone who's going to be a good leader for our country.
KUDLOW: All right, thank you for that.
I want to switch over to foreign policy, foreign affairs. You've been critical of President Obama. In particular, if I'm not mistaken, you've been critical of the way he's handled the Syria problem.
Sec. RICE: Yeah, well, I just think the United States has had a muted voice in this issue. And, look, I understand how hard it is in there and I've been one who's been really rather reluctant to criticize the successes because I know how hard it is. But Syria is really getting worse and worse. And it was said by some, 'Well, if the United States intervenes, we'll make it worse.' Well, how much worse can it get with Bashar Al-Assad butchering his people, literally blood flowing in the streets of Damascus and Aleppo? How much worse can it get than the spillover into Turkey or Lebanon or to Iraq? How much more...
KUDLOW: What should we be doing? What should we be doing?
Sec. RICE: Well, we can--we can rally the regional powers to arm the opposition around a political framework for a post-Assad regime. We can't—we wasted a lot of time in the security council, frankly. The Russians and the Chinese were never going to come along. I felt bad for Kofi Annan, somebody who I actually admire, who was trying to bring about an agreement that was never going to come about. And so we wasted a lot of time on diplomacy that turned out to be pretty feckless. And so now we've lost a lot of time. We've got to quickly rally countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the Europeans. We have to remember that the regional powers bring a lot of their own agendas to this, Sunnis arming Sunnis, Shia arming Shia. We need to be there for balance so that this is a post-Assad Syria for all people.
KUDLOW: But it's--of course, it's all tied up--I mean, I'm not going to tell you...
Sec. RICE: Right.
KUDLOW: It's all tied up, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah...
Sec. RICE: Yeah, absolutely.
KUDLOW: ...and so forth. I want to ask you, we've covered this story a lot. In your view, do you think Israel will attack Iran before the election? There are rumors, 30-day wars, Prime Minister Netanyahu is ready to go. What's your assessment of Israel attacking Iran?
Sec. RICE: Well, I don't know what Israel will do, what we'll do, and when, but I will say this. I think when the Israelis believe that the Iranians have gone past or about to go past a certain point where that program is no longer accessible, you can't attack it, Israel will do what it needs to do to secure itself. Any democracy would.
KUDLOW: Do you think that this current administration will back Israel or...
Sec. RICE: I think the United States has no choice but to back an ally if the democratically elected government of Israel feels that it's threatened. Now, the fact is no one can afford a nuclear Iran. And so when President Obama says, 'I have a military option and I will use it,' I hope that he's saying it with enough conviction that the Iranians believe that because that's the only way they're ever going to back down.
KUDLOW: You've become more political in the last year or so. You're out there giving speeches. I was reading up today on Google. You're helping some female candidates running for Congress. You gave a rip-snorting speech, I'm told, for Governor Romney out in Aspen, if I'm not mistaken. Is Condi Rice going into politics?
Sec. RICE: Oh, no. I'm just trying to do what I can to help get some people elected because I understand, like anyone, that unless you have the right people in Washington, you're not going to have the right policies. And so Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan I want to see as president and vice president. I have helped a number of female candidates in particular, but some others as well because the Congress--the control of the Congress and the Senate is important. I was actually very involved in 2010 in California politics...
Sec. RICE: ...trying to help Meg Whitman and also Carly Fiorina. So I do my part but I do it as a citizen who's concerned, not as somebody who wants to be in politics myself.
KUDLOW: Why not? Why not? You'd make a great politician. You'd make a great politician.
Sec. RICE: Oh, I really don't think so.
KUDLOW: You have credentials, you're a national name, you are admired widely, you're tough. I've seen you, you can be tough as nails. Why not?
Sec. RICE: Because you have to know what you do and do not want to do, and every time I've thought about it, I've thought, no, the DNA just isn't there for running for office. But I do public service, I'll always do public service.
KUDLOW: All right, last one, which is great fun, you are now one of two women accepted into the Augusta National Golf Club. First of all, congratulations.
Sec. RICE: Thank you. Thank you.
KUDLOW: I read that with great interest. How much golf do you play?
Sec. RICE: Well, I play during the summer quite a bit...
Sec. RICE: ...maybe two or three times a week even.
Sec. RICE: I live five minutes from the Stanford Golf Course.
KUDLOW: All right.
Sec. RICE: And I'll go and hit balls even if I can't play. But once school starts, it's sort of once a week. But the good thing about California, Northern California, is it's pretty much a year-round sport, so I enjoy it.
KUDLOW: So may I ask what your handicap is, as a former golfer?
Sec. RICE: I'm--I--you can. I'm a 14 index.
Sec. RICE: And I only started playing in 2005, and I didn't play very much because of secretary of state. So I really started playing in 2009. And...
KUDLOW: And you're down to a 14!
Sec. RICE: Yes. But for those golfers out there, if I can get better from 100 yards in, I'll--it'll plummet.
KUDLOW: Practice. You got to putt and chip, right?
Sec. RICE: I love to putt. I love to drive the ball and I love to putt.
Everything in between is an adventure.
KUDLOW: All right. Great stuff. Thank you for joining us.
Sec. RICE: Thank you.
KUDLOW: Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state. And again, let's see the book, "No Higher Honor." We appreciate you, Madam Secretary. All the best of luck.
Sec. RICE: Thank you. Pleasure.
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