Read The Full Transcript Of BuzzFeed’s Interview With Susan Rice

“Can I be blunt? Yes. Can I be diplomatic? Yes. Can I concoct a mixture of vinegar and honey when the circumstances warrant? Yes.”

1. BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast sat down with national security adviser Susan Rice for a far-ranging interview that covered everything from Syria to her signature blue eyeliner — and you can listen to the whole thing right now.

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2. Listen to the full episode here. Read highlights and the full transcript below.

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3. On people mistaking her for Condoleezza Rice:

“Ooh, that happens. That happens. The last time was my first trip to China, as national security adviser. This was hilarious actually. The Chinese national network was reporting on my visit to China, national security adviser Susan Rice meets with President Xi Jinping, and they put up Condi’s picture. They’ve gotten it right since. That was almost funny.

“But it does happen. And then my mom gets upset ‘cause sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, you’re Mrs. Rice’ or ‘You’re Condoleezza Rice’s mother’ and she’s like, ‘No.’ But in all honesty, I’ve known Condi for many years, and she’s been very kind and generous to me. There’s no dissing of her. Yes sometimes people get confused, which you know, in China, what do you expect?”

4. Her thoughts on the incoming administration:

“As a mom, as a citizen, as a voter, this is not what I voted for. And I think there are a lot of reasons to be questioning what’s coming next. Many of the things that were said during the campaign I think left a lot of people questioning where they’d fit in an America under Donald Trump, particularly people of color. Particularly women. And I think that doesn’t go away just because I’m national security adviser.

“Having said that, my job is to work as best as I can with the people who the Trump administration has designated will come and fill behind me, and I’ve had constructive meetings with my designated successor, and I’m going to do my best at President Obama’s direction to provide them with all the information and all the preparation that we possibly can, because our job is to make as responsible a handoff as we possibly can for the sake of the country and the American people, and I take that very very seriously. So I have to separate my personal concerns from my professional responsibilities. And I’m hopeful that the things that we are concerned about prove to be concerns that we don’t need to be worried about. And that indeed where we’re headed is a place that is able to sustain I think the very important progress we’ve made under President Obama, and that there’s a clear-eyed recognition that governing is different than campaigning, and that comes with a whole different level of responsibility. And that we’ll see the kind of decision-making that we think this country needs and deserves.”

5. On how she’s talked to her teenage daughter about the election:

“I have one kid who’s a freshman in college on the other side of the country, and so he is off in his own little universe, and I’ve got a fourteen year old daughter who’s an eighth grader, who is home and whom we get to interact with on a daily basis. She’s the one that I hear more stress out of. We just try to be as honest as possible. We are patriots in my family, we are believers in this country, we’re believers in democracy, and we’re trying to explain to her that this is the outcome of the election, it’s what the American people decided.

“It may not be what you would’ve chosen, but we all have a responsibility to be active citizens and shape our system and our future. I think if there’s any message, whether it’s for my kid who’s this one, who’s too young to vote, or those that are able to vote, you gotta be part of this. You can’t sit on the sidelines and read your iPhone and be on social media and expect everything to be cool. You have to be part of this. You have to make change. Change doesn’t happen with people sitting on their behinds, getting lazy. And I think that’s a very important lesson to come out of this election.”

Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

7. She was critical of press coverage of Russian hacking:

“On October 7, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary for Homeland Security, put out an unprecedented statement outlining the fact that the intelligence community, that seventeen intelligence agencies had come to the high confidence conclusion that the Russian government was involved in hacking to influence our electoral process—and hacking and disseminating information. That was an unprecedented determination. They also said that it’s our judgement that that couldn’t happen without approval at the highest levels of government.

“I do think that the fact that the press found it more interesting at the time to report on Secretary Clinton’s emails or President Elect Trump’s, you know, videotaped comments about women, or a large number of other issues, is in retrospect probably a missed opportunity and the fact that they did not focus on this issue to the extent that we thought they would and they should, is something that I think the press needs to do some introspection about. I’m not suggesting that there weren’t other things going on that were interesting and attractive to the news media, but that determination that the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security made, was very direct and very clear, and for the press not to give it the sustained attention that it deserved, and meanwhile continue to give great attention to the product of these hackings, I think is something that we all need to be concerned about and look back on and ask ourselves what we can learn from that.”

8. She stands by the US not intervening more in Syria:

“I think that was the right choice. I think for us to have gotten in the middle of the civil war is brutal and painful and traumatic as it is, would have been a wrong choice. Now, history will debate that, there will be some people who say we should’ve done it. Maybe with the benefit of hindsight, folks will come to a different conclusion.

“My own strong personal view is that is was not in our interest to get involved in another complex civil conflict. It is in our interest to try to deal with the terrorist threat. It is in our interest to provide massive amounts of humanitarian assistance, and we’re by far the largest contributor, $5.5 billion. It was, I think, arguably in our interest to support the opposition that was fighting Assad but not to take that fight on ourselves. I will say that this is, in my opinion, the toughest policy issue I’ve ever seen. There are no easy answers. I don’t profess that we’ve gotten every decision point on every decision tree right. But in the broadest sense, I don’t think we should have intervened militarily against Assad.”

Andrew Harrer/Pool / Getty Images

10. Her favorite curse word:

“The frank one.”

11. Might she run for office in the future?

“Stay tuned.”

12. Read the full transcript below.

Julia Furlan / BuzzFeed News

Ambassador Susan Rice (L), and Another Round hosts Tracy Clayton (center) and Heben Nigatu in the BuzzFeed office.

[Everyone cheers with glasses of red wine]

Tracy Clayton, Another Round host: I feel like we’re all pretty close and like family by now, right? I feel like we’ve had a journey. So I’m gonna start with this question. Safe space, you can be honest.

Susan Rice: Yeah, right.

TC: Has anyone ever tried to touch your hair without permission in the White House?

SR: No, definitely not in the White House.

TC: Mmm, but elsewhere?

SR: Well, growing up, yeah.

TC: But like since you become Ambassador Rice.

SR: Nobody’s tried to touch my hair in like, in decades.

TC: You are blessed.

Heben Nigatu, Another Round host: When was the last time you were mistaken for Condoleeza Rice?

SR: Ooh, that happens. That happens. The last time was my first trip to China, as national security adviser. This was hilarious actually. The Chinese national network was reporting on my visit to China, national security adviser Susan Rice meets with President Xi Jinping, and they put up Condi’s picture. They’ve gotten it right since. That was almost funny.

HN: I love that, wow, OK.

SR: But it does happen. And then my mom gets upset ‘cause sometimes people will say, “Oh, you’re Mrs. Rice,” or “You’re Condoleeza Rice’s mother” and she’s like, “No.” But in all honesty, I’ve known Condi for many years, and she’s been very kind and generous to me. There’s no dissing of her. Yes sometimes people get confused, which you know, in China, what do you expect?

HN: We’re one month away from inauguration. My goodness. As of this taping, exactly one month. Are you worried?

SR: [laughs menacingly]

TC: What a loaded laugh.

SR: Worried about what?

HN: The coming administration, I would say.

TC: I’m terrified.

SR: I have to be a little bit careful because we’re doing this in my current role. But: yeah. As a mom, as a citizen, as a voter, this is not what I voted for. And I think there are a lot of reasons to be questioning what’s coming next. Many of the things that were said during the campaign I think left a lot of people questioning where they’d fit in an America under Donald Trump, particularly people of color. Particularly women. And I think that doesn’t go away just because I’m national security adviser. Having said that, my job is to work as best as I can with the people who the Trump administration has designated will come and fill behind me, and I’ve had constructive meetings with my designated successor, and I’m going to do my best at President Obama’s direction to provide them with all the information and all the preparation that we possibly can, because our job is to make as responsible a handoff as we possibly can for the sake of the country and the American people, and I take that very very seriously. So I have to separate my personal concerns from my professional responsibilities. And I’m hopeful that the things that we are concerned about prove to be concerns that we don’t need to be worried about. And that indeed where we’re headed is a place that is able to sustain I think the very important progress we’ve made under President Obama, and that there’s a clear-eyed recognition that governing is different than campaigning, and that comes with a whole different level of responsibility. And that we’ll see the kind of decision-making that we think this country needs and deserves.

TC: What kind of conversations have you had or are you having with your kids about the election?

SR: I have one kid who’s a freshman in college on the other side of the country, and so he is off in his own little universe, and I’ve got a fourteen year old daughter who’s an eighth grader, who is home and whom we get to interact with on a daily basis. She’s the one that I hear more stress out of. We just try to be as honest as possible. We are patriots in my family, we are believers in this country, we’re believers in democracy, and we’re trying to explain to her that this is the outcome of the election, it’s what the American people decided. It may not be what you would’ve chosen, but we all have a responsibility to be active citizens and shape our system and our future. I think if there’s any message, whether it’s for my kid who’s too young to vote, or those that are able to vote, you gotta be part of this. You can’t sit on the sidelines and read your iPhone and be on social media and expect everything to be cool. You have to be part of this. You have to make change. Change doesn’t happen with people sitting on their behinds, getting lazy. And I think that’s a very important lesson to come out of this election.

T: So your eighth grader is expressing stress and concerns over —

SR: She’s a very thoughtful kid, she’s very progressive. She’s probably to the left of me, actually. But I wouldn’t say she’s stressing, but I think she’s very—she woke up the day after the election I think quite stressed and traumatized.

HN: Same girl.

SR: I think she’s sort of now taking it in stride and she’s more in the spirit of “What’re we gonna do about it?” So she’s gonna be in that Million Woman March on the 21st.

HN: I would daresay, might’ve gotten that trait from you.

SR: Maybe.

TC: Hot take, hot take.

HN: There are so many interesting ways that people have described you and the way you work. Let me give you a little sample.

TC: Oh wait you just took a breath and closed your eyes for longer than a blink. What is, where did that come from? What was that for?

SR: Cocked my head. What do you got?

HN: “Sharp elbowed,” which I still, I’m not even sure I know what that means. “Brusque.” “Blunt to a fault.” Do you think you’re blunt to a fault?

TC: Do you have sharp elbows?

HN: What are sharp elbows?

SR: So sharp elbows means that you…can throw an elbow.

HN: Droppin’ bows on people. We’re citing Ludacris is what you’re saying.

SR: Think about on the basketball court if you have to throw an elbow. That’s what the sharp elbows means. Do I think that’s a fair? I think that those descriptions of me are predominantly from those who have felt that I’ve been part of decisions or policies that they object to, and that I’ve frankly been pretty effective in getting to where I’m trying to go on behalf of the president or whatever the circumstance is. Can I be blunt? Yes. Can I be diplomatic? Yes. Can I concoct a mixture of vinegar and honey when the circumstances warrant? Yes.

HN: Concoct, I love that verb.

SR: I have a range, and I’d much rather do things the nice way than the hard way, but sometimes you have to use all the tools at your disposal.

TC: We have heard a lot of stories that I think are wonderful about you letting people know how you feel at any given time. Heben’s got a favorite story, anecdote.

HN: I just love the bird flipped round the world.

SR: There’s only one.

HN: There was this joke on the show Bob’s Burgers once about how good it feels to give someone the middle finger sometimes. Sometimes there’s no other way you could express yourself, but that swift action.

SR: I’ve only done that once, it was twenty years ago, and it was well-deserved.

TC: Would you like to share this story?

SR: No, you’ve all done your research, you tell the story.

HN: It was glorious and it happened.

TC: Would you like to enlighten our listeners?

SR: There was a rather arrogant—“rather” would be an understatement—senior official, more senior to me than I was at the time, who was very demeaning and insulting to me in front of the people who work for me. I didn’t appreciate it. So I, as a young thirtysomething, expressed that with a nonverbal gesture. To which he did not respond. It was as if it didn’t happen. Everybody else in the room was like… [makes a face]. I’ve never denied it, it’s true. Not apologizing for it.

TC: I am who I say I am.

SR: Not apologizing. Soon as this happened and the meeting ended, I called my boss, who was then the Secretary of State, and my colleague, the national security adviser at the time, and I said “I just flipped the bird to a member of your cabinet.”

TC: Like before you hear from anybody else…

SR: Here’s what happened. And here’s why I did it. And you know what they both said? “Good for you.”

HN: Yesss.

SR: That’s the truth. Now I’m busting them, but it’s true.

TC: This makes my heart so happy because I feel like as, for women of color, especially black women, when you are someone who is known as being sharp-elbowed and brusque, and whatever to a fault, as they say, whenever we are firm and whenever we stand up to somebody else who’s speaking to us the wrong way, or is just out of line, that usually gets read as anger, and nobody wants to be the “angry black woman.”

SR: Well let me just say a couple of things. First of all, I was 32 at the time, 33 maybe. I’m 52 now. I would not do that now. But again, I’m not apologetic for what I did then in the circumstance. Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with this person anymore. Having said that, I think there are ways to express one’s discontent that are a little more subtle than that. I’ve maybe learned a few things in the last 20 years. I’m not recommending that method to my young sisters.

TC: Right, you’re not apologetic about it now, which I think is amazing. How did you learn to not be apologetic for things like that?

SR: I’m apologetic when I feel like I’ve made a mistake. And when I have done a disservice to myself or someone else. But I don’t feel a need to apologize for doing or saying something that I think needs to be said, just because it may not sit comfortably with somebody else.

TC: Is that just a personality trait that you came into the world with?

SR: That’s a good question. I think to a large extent, yes. But it’s also I think a function of being raised in a family where people are open and not afraid to express emotion, not afraid to disagree, have an argument, but all in the safety and the support of family. I’ve had a decent amount of self confidence from the time I can remember, and I think my parents helped instill that in me from a very early age, and my brother too, for that matter. And I do think it’s to some extent who I am, but it’s also part of my experience. I’ve been very lucky to have had a supportive family, a great education, enormous opportunity and challenge. I’ve taken my knocks here and there, but I believe my intentions are good. Doesn’t mean everything I do is perfectly executed or I don’t make mistakes. Of course I do. I like to think that with me, what you see is what you get, and you can like or dislike it, it’s up to you, but it’s straight. That’s something that I pride myself on.

HN: Can we talk a little bit about the person who is replacing you? Dun dun dun, transition time!

SR: Not much, truth be told.

TC: Ok, ok. We’ll see what we can get out of you.

HN: So your successor is retired Army Lieutenant General Mike Flynn. Have y’all done the toss off, the baton thing? Like, “here are the office snacks.”

SR: [Laughs] Here’s the fridge. We’ve met a couple of times, we’ve spoken on the phone, and we’re in the process of doing what I hope will be a series of meetings where they ask the questions they have, we share the information we think they need to have. It’s a pretty intense process. We’ve also prepared an extraordinary amount of written material for the new team to digest, and we’ve really —

HN: Like a style guide?

SR: Style guide.. girl?

HN: I mean like best practices. Here’s how we do things.

SR: No, we’re in charge of national security. There are a few issues out there in the world that they need to be up on that may not be issues you can necessarily derive from reading the press.

TC: So like a manual! Here’s how you …

SR: It’s not a manual. It’s like, issue A through Z, here’s what you need to know, here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it, yadda yadda.

HN: Do you worry at all that Trump hasn’t been that interested in doing his security briefings, as the national security adviser?

SR: Let me stop y’all right here and say I’m the sitting national security adviser. I’m not gonna —

HN: Had to ask. Had to ask.

SR: It was a good try. I’ll give you credit. But I’m not going there, I’m not going to discuss the President Elect. I’m not gonna discuss my successor in any depth. I will say what I said before. My job, our job, is to be as responsible as we can, making sure they have what they need, they know what they need, and that they have the wherewithal to succeed on day one. What they do on their side is up to them. And I’ll come back in six months, how bout that?

HN: Alright, OK.

TC: Um, we have you on tape saying this. If you don’t actually come back in six months, we gon’ find you.

HN: We have receipts. While we have you, we definitely want to talk to you about Russia, fake news. What’s happening? Do you feel like the US has been prepared for what happened with Russia with them interfering in our elections through fake news on the internet?

TC: And just like the internet in general.

HN: Just in the internet, in our casual lives.

SR: Yes. I mean first of all, we’re well aware, and we have been for a long time, that there is a real threat from adversaries, state actors, non-state actors, to hack us, influence us, destroy stuff through cyber means. Because cyber threat has been understood for a while, it’s longstanding, it’s a concern—

HN: Do you feel like that press covered that enough?

SR: Well there’s two different things. One, do we know that we face cyberthreat from adversaries, whether state actors and you know, terrorist groups, folks trying to hack for economic gain, yes. And we have put in place a large number of tools to try and prevent that and to respond to it.

But what you just asked about whether the press reacted to it enough is a different question. On October 7, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary for Homeland Security, put out an unprecedented statement outlining the fact that the intelligence community, that seventeen intelligence agencies had come to the high confidence conclusion that the Russian government was involved in hacking to influence our electoral process—and hacking and disseminating information. That was an unprecedented determination. They also said that it’s our judgement that that couldn’t happen without approval at the highest levels of government.

I do think that the fact that the press found it more interesting at the time to report on Secretary Clinton’s emails or President-elect Trump’s, you know, videotaped comments about women, or a large number of other issues, is in retrospect probably a missed opportunity and the fact that they did not focus on this issue to the extent that we thought they would and they should, is something that I think the press needs to do some introspection about. I’m not suggesting that there weren’t other things going on that were interesting and attractive to the news media, but that determination that the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security made, was very direct and very clear, and for the press not to give it the sustained attention that it deserved, and meanwhile continue to give great attention to the product of these hackings, I think is something that we all need to be concerned about and look back on and ask ourselves what we can learn from that.

TC: Russia tried and succeeded, many would say, to undermine our faith in our government process, our election, our systems. Our incoming president seems to be pretty pro-Russia. Do you feel like he has the ability or is equipped to deal with this properly, as president?

SR: Well, again, I’m not gonna comment on the President-elect or how he’s gonna govern. And frankly we don’t know. We’re all in the same situation, we’ll all wait and see. I do think that the fact that Russia was doing what they were doing ought to concern all Americans. I do not believe that it influenced the mechanics of the election. I think we’re quite confident that people’s votes were cast and recorded as they were meant to be. There was no physical manipulation of the outcome. But what’s harder to measure is the extent to which it affected people’s perceptions and judgements. I’m not in a position to measure that. I don’t think frankly anybody is. But it should not be a casual consideration that a foreign government, particularly a largely adversarial government, attempted to have an influence. I think that’s something that, as President Obama has determined, we need to understand, and share with Congress, and ultimately share with the American people.

As he said also, and I agree with this, that it’s not just what Russia and another foreign government might do to try to influence us, it’s how we enable ourselves to be influenced. We’ve got to be a much more cohesive, resilient, unified body politic to withstand the kinds of challenges that are coming at us from all kinds of international actors, whether it’s terrorists, whether it’s state actors, whether it’s cyber criminals. We have to know who we are and know what we believe.

I think one of the real issues that we’re faced with is how we consume news, how the media is perceived, how fake news—which you referred to earlier—is gaining a degree of currency without criticism that is dangerous, in my judgement. What it means at the end of the day is that all of us as citizens have to be consumers and judges. We can’t let others judge information for us. It’s not the day in which I grew up, long time ago, where we had three news networks. No cable, no social media, no internet. Where what you see is what you got. We had basically straight journalism. We don’t have that anymore. We have some straight journalism, but then we have opinion and perspective. And I think a lot of people, especially young people, don’t know how to tell the difference, and aren’t motivated to tell the difference. People are consuming the news that is comfortable for them, not necessarily the news that is real or that they need to know.

HN: One of the things President Obama also said was that we’d retaliate. What could that even mean?

SR: Well, we have a whole variety of tools to respond to governments or other entities that we think have acted in a way that violates our interest. And in the case of this, we’ve said from the beginning that we will respond in an appropriate manner at a time and a place of our choosing, and that some of what we do in response may not be visible to the public in every instance. I think the American people have to understand that we take this seriously, we’re going to respond appropriately, and just because something doesn’t go “bang” doesn’t mean that we haven’t done what needs to be done.

TC: I know that we’re running out of time and we cannot let you go, I’m sorry to tell you, without talking at least a little bit about Syria. And for this next question, I’m going to read a little bit, in the ’90s, you said: “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again like the Rwandan genocide, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that’s what was required.” But you’ve also said that Rwanda and Syria are two very different situations, and that the “dramatic” action wouldn’t be appropriate in the case of Syria.

SR: Well, first of all, I think the equation needs to be dissected. Rwanda was a horrific, preplanned, premeditated genocide that occurred over 100 days. Up to 1 million people were killed, largely with machetes, house to house. It was shocking in its speed and its scope. Rwanda at the time was a country of maybe 7 million people, so imagine the toll that that took. The world wasn’t focused, and the genocide snuck up on most people — not everybody, but most people — and happened with lightning speed. The international community was completely paralyzed in deciding how to respond.

The United States had just literally, seven days before the genocide occurred, removed the last of its American forces from Somalia. The last thing that was on the minds of members of Congress, the administration, the press corps, was a new intervention into a place even less known than Somalia to try to prevent a genocide that was happening literally house to house with machetes. I’m not making excuses for the United States or for the international community; I saw firsthand the tragic results of our collective failure to act. But that was very different from what’s happened in Syria.

Syria is a civil war. Syria began as a popular uprising, just like the other experiences in the Arab Spring, with a repressive government that responded by basically killing the protesters. It’s not a genocide, it’s a war, and there’s a difference. Genocide is a preplanned attack on people because of who they are. This is a interstate conflict.

TC: So the definition of genocide has nothing to do with the number of casualties?

SR: No, no, no. It’s not about number, it’s about intent and method. The question for the United States from the very beginning is “What can we do about it, in Syria?” Should we intervene in the middle of a civil war, post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, in the Middle East? If we did, what would that involve? Would we try to put ground forces on the ground and separate folks? Would we fight Assad? Would we create a no-fly zone? I think personally the judgment the president made that it is not in our national interest to become involved in another civil conflict, in another Middle Eastern country with forces on the ground or even an air campaign, made sense, and makes sense.

What we have done is when the threat has been directed at the United States, i.e., the terrorist threat from ISIL or Al-Qaeda in Syria, is to go after them.

TC: So it would take a threat against the United States for us to get involved in Syria?
SR: Well, we have gotten involved in Syria to defend our interests —

TC: I’m sorry, let me — to respond with that sort of dramatic action.

SR: I think that was the right choice. I think for us to have gotten in the middle of the civil war, as brutal and painful and traumatic as it is, would have been a wrong choice. Now, history will debate that, there will be some people who say we should’ve done it. Maybe with the benefit of hindsight, folks will come to a different conclusion.

My own strong personal view is that is was not in our interest to get involved in another complex civil conflict. It is in our interest to try to deal with the terrorist threat. It is in our interest to provide massive amounts of humanitarian assistance, and we’re by far the largest contributor, $5.5 billion. It was, I think, arguably in our interest to support the opposition that was fighting Assad but not to take that fight on ourselves.

I will say that this is, in my opinion, the toughest policy issue I’ve ever seen. There are no easy answers. I don’t profess that we’ve gotten every decision point on every decision tree right. But in the broadest sense, I don’t think that we should have intervened militarily against Assad.

***

Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

TC: [Let’s move on to] “Pew Pew Pew.” This is our rapid fire question segment. Quick, quick, quick fast in a hurry. What is your favorite cuss word?

HN: We know you have one.

TC: We know you got one, don’t try to…

HN: Don’t lie.

SR: [to her three staffers, who are in the room] Is it the F word or the S word? Y’all tell me what do I use more.

TC: You phonin’ a friend? What’s happening?

HN: Let’s take a poll.

SR: The “frank” word.

TC: I don’t know the frank word. I know the fuck word, is that the word? Blink twice if yes.

SR: That’s for six months from now.

HN: Alright, alright.

TC: Ok. What are you reading right now?

SR: My briefings. [laughs]

HN: At least someone is!

SR: No, no no no. Ohhh lordy lordy lordy lordy lordy. I read a ton of paper every day. I read the newspapers, I read my intelligence materials, I read all the briefing materials. I read the newspaper in hard copy.

TC: Is there leisure reading you do?

SR: Yes, I do do leisure reading but I don’t get to do it like, at one in the morning. When I getting up at six in the morning, so I do most of my leisure reading on vacation and on airplanes and that sort of stuff.

TC: What’s the last animated TV show you’ve watched as an adult?

SR: Animated TV show? I have no idea. I’m not watching any TV shows, frankly.

TC: You don’t want any TV at all like ever?

SR: OK, so truth be told, I almost never watch TV in this job, because I just don’t have time. If I’m working out in the morning, I’m on the machine, I’m reading the newspaper, I’m reading some briefing materials, I may well have on the TV BBC News, Morning Joe—depending on how aggravated I am by those people—so that’s like maybe a finite period of time. I might watch football on the weekends in the background. I might listen to Trevor Noah or something if I’m up late at night. Not that late, but you know.

HN: I don’t know, 11:30’s past my bedtime.

SR: I will sometimes confess this, I do sometimes watch Rachel Maddow and some of the shows on MSNBC.

HN: I’m surprised you watch cable news, to be honest.

SR: Very selectively, and only on occasion. And then the thing I don’t watch real time but I love to watch is, like I’ll binge on Scandal. I’ll watch like three to five episodes at a time and then I won’t watch again for like three months. That’s my kind of rhythm.

HN: Nice healthy little binge.

SR: I have great ambitions for when I get out of government. I will watch a broader range of stuff.

TC: When you’re done with the White House, where are you going on vacation? We know somewhere beachy but like…

SR: I’m not telling you!

TC: We wanna go too!

SR: Hell no. I’m going far away to someplace really nice, and not cheap, and not with y’all.

HN: She said y’all not invited.

TC: Well, jeez. OK!

SR: Next question.

HN: I am living for this blue eyeliner. The signature blue. Talk to us. I would never dare to wear that color of eyeliner.

TC: Teach! I would never!

SR: What? This an interesting question. I don’t know where the hell I get the blue eyeliner from, but I’ve been had it for thirty years. Yeah and it’s the same, it’s Estee Lauder Sapphire Blue. And I like it. And I don’t know why. I’ve just not ever changed it up. Is it ok?

TC: It works. It draws attention like specifically to your eyes.

SR: But does it look blue from where you are? As I am — I put it on this morning and I fixed my makeup for you people.

TC: It’s like a hint of like, navy, like it doesn’t look like electric, it’s navy.

SR: It’s navy! It’s navy.

TC: I like it. I would never think to…

SR: You know what, this is interesting, this is a good topic. Nobody’s ever asked me about this.

TC: We can talk about makeup for the rest of the day.

HN: It’s your armor.

TC: That’s what [NPR host] Audie Cornish told us. It’s like her warpaint.

HN: Was there a point in your career where you had to make a conscious choice what you wanted your hairstyle to be?

SR: Since I’ve had a career, my hair has been more or less professional.

HN: But professional’s such a loaded word.

SR: I had an afro for a long, long time.

TC: So you’re permed right now, you’re relaxed right now?

SR: Yeah.

TC: You think you’ll ever go natural again?

SR: No. I had a afro, and I’ll confess—cause y’all are too young to know about this, I had a jheri curl—

TC: Oh, I remember a jheri curl.

HN: I don’t know her.

SR: I’m telling the truth, it’s terrible.

TC: Come on, you’ve got to give me a little bit of credit. I know about jheri curls.

SR: That was a long, long, long — it was like thirty years ago. Yeah, eighties.

TC: So you had a jheri curl.

SR: Short, not like gross and juicy.

TC: Did you have the bangs though?

SR: No, I didn’t have any bangs! It was like a ‘fro and a jheri curl.

TC: This is so exciting to me. Are you sure you won’t send us like one picture?

SR: Hell no.

TC: What if we promised not to share it with anybody?

SR: [laughs] So, since I like had professional career, I pull it back because I don’t have time and I can’t be bothered. Because I don’t have fifteen extra minutes to curl my hair. Some of the times when I have to show up late for dinners and meetings it’s because I had to curl my hair.

TC: I have more hair questions, I don’t know how much time we have. Do you think you’ll ever go natural again? You gonna bring the afro back once you’re out of the White House and you’re like fuck it?

SR: No. I mean I might find something else to do, but not the afro. That’s sort of really old school. It’s like Angela Davis, you know what I mean?

TC: I like Angela Davis!

SR: Yeah, it’s fine, but it’s kind of like 1970s.

TC: The 70s are back though!

SR: Well I wouldn’t know.

TC: You know what, that’s the fairest answer ever.

SR: So we can talk later, you can tell me what to do with my hair.

TC: What is drunk Ambassador Rice like?

SR: You will not meet drunk Ambassador Rice.

TC: That’s why we’re asking what she’s like.

SR: No, I’m saying you’re not gonna meet her.

TC: She doesn’t exist? She’s not around?

SR: She ain’t here with you.

TC: In spite of my best efforts, I guess.

SR: I don’t get drunk, I get a little happy on rare occasion, and I’m probably dancing if I’m that happy.

TC: What’s your go-to dance move? Do you have one? Body roll? Butterfly? Electric slide?

HN: What are you doing down the soul train line?

SR: I’m doing what I need to do. Here’s the problem. Here’s the honest, no kidding problem. My knees! Cause I’m an athlete but—

TC: I’m not even an athlete and I struggle.

SR: I’m an athlete and I’m old enough to be your mother. If I go out and really throw down, the next day—

TC: Gotta ice em.

SR: Should ice ‘em. I’m not smart enough to ice them so I’m limping around.

TC: Well speaking of knees and exercise and running—I’m working on my segues—are you planning on running for any offices in the future?

SR: I thought you were going to a lifestyle question! Stay tuned.

TC: Ok, stay tuned. I like that.

SR: You guys are good. Can I just say y’all are good.

TC: Please say more about how good we are.

SR: Y’all are good. You’re smart, you do your homework, and you’re fun to be with. So thank you.

TC: Aw, thank you!

SR: And you know, these guys [gestures to staff] will tell you I don’t give out compliments liberally.

TC: You know, I can…feel it.

SR: [laughs] No gratuitous compliments. Y’all are gonna cheers.

TC: Cheers, this was amazing. Ambassador Rice, this has been a joy and a privilege, thank you so, so much. Where can people follow you on Twitter?

SR: @AmbassadorRice.

TC: Bam.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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