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Susan Rice Is On Biden's Short List To Be His Running Mate

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Ambassador Susan Rice is one of a handful of women on Joe Biden's shortlist for a running mate. She told us she is the right fit for the job.

SUSAN RICE: Yes. I think I could bring my experience of almost now 20 years in the senior levels of the executive branch to bear to help tackle the most pressing problems we face.

MARTIN: And while this would be the first time she would campaign for herself, Ambassador Rice told our co-host Steve Inskeep that she's ready for it.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Regardless of your experience in government, a big part of the vice presidency or seeking the vice presidency is campaigning, of course, which is not something else you've had a lot of experience doing. Do you have any eagerness to campaign?

RICE: Well, Steve, yes. I've not run for office on my own behalf, but I've run for office on other people's behalf, where I did, actually, quite a bit of retail politics and speaking to groups of people. But I think, unfortunately, in the current context, with the pandemic, this will be quite an unusual campaign.

INSKEEP: If you were in office, you would face the fundamental problem of trust in government or lack of trust in government that is playing out now. Many people are refusing to wear face masks. It seems evident from surveys that many people would think the same way about a vaccine once it's available. What would you do about that?

RICE: Well, I think that's a huge challenge, and we have had vaccines many - in many stages in our history. You know, still today, children need certain vaccines to be able to go to school, and I think that we're going to have to take a similar approach that, you know, for kids to be able to go back to school in whatever jurisdiction, they ought to be vaccinated. And the localities ought to consider also requiring the people in the household with the children to be vaccinated for the very reason that's obvious - that this is, you know, something that affects the entirety of the community.

INSKEEP: I want to ask you about a couple of foreign policy problems that any administration would face on January 20, 2021. One of them is deteriorating U.S. relations with China. Now, I know you've been critical of the way that President Trump has approached China. But at the same time, there are foreign policy experts across the spectrum who've said China's a problem. We don't know how to confront China. Maybe it's time for a confrontation with China. Would you want to roll back U.S. relations with China to the way they were in 2016?

RICE: Steve, no. I don't think you can roll back the clock on any critical issue to 2016. The world has changed, and we have to deal with the world as it is. But having said that, my criticism is based predominantly on the fact that we have approached the challenge that China poses economically and strategically in isolation rather than in partnership with our allies in Asia and Europe, you know, instead of, for example, approaching our concerns about trade and economic policy collectively with our European and Asian partners, who share many of those same concerns and who, joining with us, could add to our collective pressure on China to change its policies and approaches. We started separate trade battles with our closest allies.

INSKEEP: If you've got more partners behind you, is there some value in a confrontation with China?

RICE: Well, if by confrontation, you mean is it smart for us to start a hot war, I think absolutely not.

INSKEEP: No. But what about in other ways, diplomatically or otherwise?

RICE: Well, diplomatically, sure. First of all, we don't need to seek confrontation for its own sake. We need to be strong and smart in how we compete with China and push back on China's policies on the economic and the security front that threaten our interests. We also should be speaking up vocally and forcefully about China's egregious human rights abuses, from how it treats the Uighurs, to the people of Hong Kong.

INSKEEP: It's common to say that a lot of the divisions of the last few years are merely highlighting what was already there. You could say that President Trump talks the way that a lot of Americans talk and believes what a lot of Americans believe, which is why millions of people voted for him, for example. It is often said that the pandemic has struck the most vulnerable communities because they were vulnerable over a long period of time, that we're just having American society exposed in a different way. Do you believe that?

RICE: Well, I believe that what the pandemic has done is show how much disparity there is among Americans from a socioeconomic point of view and, to a large extent, a racial and ethnic point of view. And, you know, if it wasn't obvious to people before, it ought to be now, but I don't think that that is the same thing as the first part of your question, which is to suggest that, you know, all Donald Trump has done is shined a spotlight on some of the underbelly of our society. I don't think that's right. I think Americans, at the end of the day, are not people who like to hate and to fear one another.

INSKEEP: Do you feel that you understand the roughly 40% of Americans who approve of the job the president is doing?

RICE: I do think I have a good understanding, maybe not a perfect understanding, in part, Steve, because, as I write in my book, I have a 23-year-old son whom I love dearly whose politics are very, very different from my own and from the rest of our family.

INSKEEP: Talk more about that. What are his politics?

RICE: You know, I have a very conservative son and a very progressive daughter. They're both wonderful, intelligent, passionate, committed kids. My son and I will have some robust disagreements over some matters of policy - not all. And yet at the end of the day, I love him dearly, and he loves me.

INSKEEP: Has there been an issue where he has almost persuaded you that maybe you're wrong?

RICE: Yeah. I'm sure - (laughter) I'm sure there is. And, you know, the thing is - and I write about this in the book, in the last chapter. I write about the areas where we agree and the areas where we disagree. So we agree, for example, on the importance of the United States playing a responsible, principled leadership role in the world. We agree on the importance of having strong alliances. You know, we disagree on things like choice. I'm pro-choice. He's pro-life. That's the kind of difference that we ought to be able to respect.

INSKEEP: Ambassador Susan Rice, always a pleasure to talk with you.

RICE: Thank you, Steve.

MARTIN: Ambassador Susan Rice talking with our co-host Steve Inskeep about some of the issues she addresses in her book "Tough Love: My Story Of The Things Worth Fighting For," which is out in paperback today.

(SOUNDBITE OF NERIJA'S "FOR YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.