Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: ‘Nationalism Is Not a Bad Thing’

By Melanie Arter | September 16, 2019 | 3:03pm EDT
(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

( – Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an interview with CBS’s “face the Nation” on Sunday defended nationalism, saying, “nationalism is not a bad thing” and it’s “not bad to be … patriotic toward your country.”

“President Trump represents a very different kind of foreign policy for the Republican Party. It's more isolationist than Republicans like yourself have been in the past. Do you think that's more reflective of where the party is now?”


“I don't know where the party is, but I certainly believe that President Trump is speaking to something that's in the country,” Rice said. “If you think back to the interview that President Barack Obama did with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic just before he left office, there are really a lot of echoes of what you hear with President Trump. He talked about allies being kind of free riders.

“There was a sort of anger and frustration sounding through about allies and what they do, and so this has been coming for some time, probably a little bit of exhaustion with the wars and terrorism and vigilance, but the fact is the American people have kind of two impulses simultaneously. One is we're tired of those burdens of leadership. Can't somebody else do it?” the former secretary said.



“You hear that in echoed by President Trump and earlier by President Obama, but they also don't want to see Syrian babies choking on nerve gas. They don't want to see people beheaded on TV as ISIS was doing. They don't want to see Vladimir Putin laying waste to his neighbors or Venezuelans starving because they have a bad government. And so what the president has to do is to activate the part of America that wants to continue to lead, and sometimes I think you get that from this administration,” she added.

Asked whether there is an identity that defines Republican foreign policy now, Rice said, “I don't know if there's an identity that defines foreign policy in either party.” She said the U.S. is going through “a transformative period in which we are leaving one era – the era in which the United States emerged really the sole superpower after the end of the Cold War.”

“Then there was a period of having to deal with terrorism and the attacks that we had the anniversary of-- on September 11th. Now we're facing all of these new challenges,” Rice said. “What do you do about cybersecurity? What do you do about ungoverned spaces where terrorists train, but where you can't go in directly? What do you do about the rise of great powers like China? What do you do about the efforts of a declining power like Russia to disrupt the international system?

“The problems are different, and I think we're going to have to come to a new consensus about what really principles are going to guide American foreign policy. I hope that there will be some echoes of the old principles that America is going to be involved, that without the United States the world is a more chaotic place. I hope that those principles will involve patience,” she added.

“In the book, To Build a Better World, you say you wrote it because you think the world is drifting towards another systemic crisis. Is this a warning?” CBS’s Margaret Brennan asked.

“I hope it's a bit of a wake-up call. When we see the rise of what we've called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, populism that says don't believe in those institutions. Those institutions-- you go around them directly to the people. Well, there are some dangers in that. When you see the rise of what I'll call nativism. I think saying it's nationalism-- for Americans nationalism is not a bad thing,” Rice said.

“It's not bad to be proud of-- patriotic toward your country. Nativism though pits you against them. When you see isolationism, when you see protectionism growing, the whole idea that the international economy is better if people trade-- countries trade freely, when you see that under attack, I do think we're drifting toward a systemic crisis,” she said.

“But those four things you just outlined sound a lot like what defines Trumpism?” Brennan said.

Rice said it’s not just what defines some of Trump’s policies. She said the president’s slogan of “America First” is “what you’re hearing across the world.”

“It defines what you're hearing in Great Britain with Brexit. It defines what you hear from the Five Star Movement in Italy. It defines what you hear in Brazil with-- with Bolsonaro. So the question is why are we getting this response? And elites can't sit back and say, oh, you're just wrong. There has to be some self-evaluation of how late-stage capitalism is dealing with some of the new challenges,” she said.

When asked whether Republicans are doing enough to push back against those Four Horsemen, Rice said, “I do think that you see people pushing back on very specific circumstances. Now, let's be fair. When it comes to some foreign policy issues that I was dealing with a decade ago, you have to give the administration credit for having taken them on.

“North Korea. Nobody has been able to solve the North Korean problem. I don't have a problem with how they are going about that. I would say that on Iran, they are pushing back correctly on an Iranian regime that is the most dangerous and disruptive regime in the Middle East,” she said.

As to whether Trump should meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Rice said she has no problem with negotiating with the Iranians, but she said, “you have to do it when the conditions are right.”

“When you have a negotiation that looks like the Taliban is not going to even recognize the legitimate democratically-elected government of Afghanistan, not going to recognize the Constitution, now you have to step back and say, is this time really to negotiate?” she said.

“When you're negotiating from a position of strength as I think we would be with the Iranians or with the North Koreans because the sanctions have weakened those economies, that's fine. When your partner or your adversary thinks that they have the upper hand, which I think the Taliban thinks because they think we want to get out so badly we'll take anything, then I think you have to stop and say this may not be the time to negotiate,” Rice added.

“Do you think that the president needs to be taking more care on those issues when he discusses race and when he discusses immigrants?” Brennan asked.

“I do, and I've said I think that particularly from the White House, you need language that recognizes how raw race is as a factor in America. I grew up in a segregated Birmingham, Alabama, all right. I understand race and racism and the like, but I'm going to tell you, Margaret, I think that we could all be better in the way that we deal with this very raw nerve which is race,” Rice said.

“I think it's time to stop labeling each other and using explosive terms like she is a racist, he is a racist. That stops the conversation, right? When you say that, that's meant to stop the conversation, and we need to have a conversation. We also need to, and I say this very often to my students, you know, identity is a wonderful and marvelous thing,” she said.

“I am tremendously proud of my ancestors who survived the horrors of slavery, came out of it, and by the time of my grandfather were being college educated. I'm tremendously proud of that legacy, but I also know that identity has to be something that you don't use against others,” the secretary added.


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