Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined me Monday to discuss her remarkable new book Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, and the interview below will air on Tuesday and Wednesday’s show but you will want to listen to it and read it asap:
HH: Joined now by Dr. Condoleezza Rice. She is, of course, the Denning professor in global business and the economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. And of course, we know her as the former Secretary of State of the United States and the first woman ever to serve as National Security Advisor. Dr. Rice, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.
CR: It’s a pleasure to be back with you, Hugh.
HH: I must say Democracy is a remarkable book, Stories From the Long Road To Freedom. It’s over at HughHewitt.com. I inhaled it. I rarely do that, but congratulations, it’s really quite an achievement.
CR: Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
HH: It reminds me of two things. The first half of the book reminds me of Dr. Kissinger’s On China, because you take your lifelong study of Russia, Ukraine and Poland and go deep, and then it reminds me of the first book I ever worked on, Richard Nixon’s The Real War, because the second half of your book is a broad, sweeping dash across the planet. Did you set out that way? Was that the plan at the beginning?
CR: No, the plan at the beginning was really to just take some cases of democracy where the United States had had an impact, because I’m worried that people no longer think we can have an impact on the course of democracy development across the world. I think it’s probably, you know, I love the study of Russia and Eastern Europe, and so maybe that shows up a little bit there, but I thought that these were just the cases in which I had been personally involved in one way or another so that I could speak frankly both as Professor Rice and as Secretary Rice.
HH: Well, you have accomplished that, and I want to begin at the ending where you close by quoting a Brexit supporter. And I know you have to stop writing a book at some point, but we just had the French elections. Before that, we had the Turkish elections, and we have the British elections coming up next month. It seems like you could endlessly extend this study, because we keep coming to crises and turning points. And I don’t think that’s going to stop. Do you?
CR: I don’t think it’s going to stop. In fact, one reason that I wrote the little epilogue called 2016, was I really felt it was important to take note of what was happening with Brexit, with the election of our own president, and what was transpiring across the world. Our election was different, because we elected someone who had never been president, sorry, who had never been in government before, and now he’s going to be president of the United States. Even with Macron in his win today in France, this is someone who comes very much from outside the establishment, really sort of founded his own movement, his own party. So I think what you’re seeing across the world is that people are not so confident in the political institutions and the kind of established institutions and the people who have been a part of them, and they’re reacting to that. And so I wanted to make sure that I had made it clear that democracies are having that experience as well.
HH: Well, with that in mind, I want to focus on Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Colombia and the Middle East, to a certain extent, in our 40 minutes or so. But I want to begin from 30,000 feet. At the end of this book, I thought to myself, you know, you have to constantly read and reread even recent history. I’d forgotten so much of what I knew and lived through that you reminded me of the Russian revolution, the terrible period of the ’90s, of the Ukrainian, in fact, I never really quite understood that the Ukraine had been through seven distinct periods in the last 100 years of governance until you put it all together. Have you ever known a successful democratic leader, Secretary Rice, who was not constantly reading and inquiring about history and recent history?
CR: I have not, and I think it’s really important to inquire about history. It really gives you context, you know, for what’s going on. Even something like Crimea, and Putin’s annexation of Crimea, we forget that for a lot of Russians, Crimea was considered Russian, and that Putin played to that in a very populist way, and it made him actually very popular in Russia. You know, Crimea was given over to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. And it was a sort of ill-conceived gift for 300 years of Ukrainian-Russian friendship. Now of course, it didn’t matter when it was all the Soviet Union, but then all of a sudden, Crimea is in Ukraine, not in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and for many Russians, this wasn’t acceptable. So we forget that Putin was playing to a sort of popular view. It was a violation of international law, it is something we should absolutely never accept or never acknowledge, but within Russia, it was not so unpopular.
HH: Well, this is why I want conservatives especially to read Democracy, is to get their history up to speed. I want everyone in the new White House staff to read it as well. I thought I knew Ukraine, because one of my law partners, Robert O’Brien, has been over there as an observer in elections, and one of my friends, Frank Dowse, was Jim Jones’ special attache when he was head of NATO and married a Ukrainian woman. I thought I knew it. But then when you walk through, Ukraine I, 1918-21, Ukraine II, ’21-’39, Ukraine in the wars, Ukraine from the wars to the Khrushchev moment, then from Khrushchev to ’91, ’91 to the present, you just methodically, it was very concise, Dr. Rice. I don’t know how long it took you to do this book, but it’s beautifully compacted.
CR: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. It took a long time, actually, because what I wanted to do was to get to the present so that people could understand why these democratic transitions have been so challenging in places like Ukraine and Russia, why Poland initially had a somewhat easier path, or what appeared to be an easier path, because they did have institutions that people admired and respected liked solidarity. And so you have to understand where somebody starts. But I also was aware that I had to get through the history in a way that was accessible and pretty quick, so thanks for saying that I managed to do that.
HH: Now the other thing that you managed to do is to instill repeatedly without being pedantic the key idea of the democratic spirit and what it means to be in the democratic spirit. At the bottom of my notes, I wrote you have to be willing to accept defeat, and you have to really believe that political campaigns and political warfare are much more preferable to the real thing with bullets and artillery. And that the democratic spirit is just the people you hold up to admire, embrace it, and the people that you scold, and sometimes not so gently, don’t.
CR: Right. Right, because democracy is really right perched, sort of perched between authoritarianism and chaos. So democracy’s that sweet spot. It’s the place where you have institutions where people can carry out their concerns, their interests, they can change their leaders peacefully. I say in the book that democracy is built for disruption, because what we do in democracy is we say okay, you want change? Go and vote in a new candidate, a new president or a new governor or a new senator. You want change? You think your rights have been violated? Take it to the courts. And by the way, take it all the way to the Supreme Court if you want to, Brown V. Board of Education. And because we have this spirit of constitutionalism, or spirit of democracy, we are willing to use the institutions of disruption rather than going into the streets and fighting it out in the streets. And that’s a tremendous gift from our founders, from the people who have sustained that system over the more than 250 years or so of our existence. And we sometimes lose patience with those who are just starting that process. You know, Hugh, democracy is a pretty mysterious thing that you get people to say I’m going to rely on this abstraction called the Constitution rather than my family or my clan or my religious group. And we’ve been very fortunate that we have those institutions, and I think part of our greatness is to be able to help others find them, too.
Its time to get back to being a republic like the founding fathers attended us to be no Useless Nations No Bilgualism,no aliedship with the euroweenies no more multi-culteralism and no more liberals period