Oprah: So is he someone you'd respect even if he weren't the president?

Condoleezza: I've respected him from the first time we talked because he has the kind of intellect that goes straight to the point. You can get a bunch of academics in a room and they can talk for three hours and never actually get to the point. I have learned to admire people who challenge others to get to the point, and he's very much that way.

Oprah: Do you see him every day?

Condoleezza: Yes, and during these times, sometimes two or three hours every day. I often go to Camp David on the weekends. The president and Mrs. Bush have been very nice about having me around.

Oprah: So you're the tagalong?

Condoleezza: That's right—and Camp David is not a bad place to tag along to.

Oprah: How do you see your responsibility as national security advisor?

Condoleezza: I am responsible for making sure that I've checked things out before I tell them to the president—and for not abusing the privilege of sitting down the hallway from him. One way that national security advisors sometimes misuse their position is by pressing their own points of view rather than bringing the policy process together so the president has all the information he needs to make choices.

Oprah: So you don't read the lists that say you're the most powerful woman in America?

Condoleezza: No, because next week I'll be the least powerful woman in America!

Oprah: What does having power mean to you?

Condoleezza: Power is nothing unless you can turn it into influence. When people talk about management style, they're really talking about how someone uses power. I've been in positions where I had to be heavy-handed, and I've been in positions where I needed to bring people together and persuade them.

Oprah: I've heard you have no problems firing people.

Condoleezza: I do have problems with it. It's never pleasant to fire someone. But I strongly believe that when you take a job, you also take the risk that you may not hold that job. If I walked into the White House tomorrow and the president said, "I really don't want you to do this job anymore," you'd never hear me complaining. So when I've had to let people go, I've thought...

Oprah: This wasn't promised to you.

Condoleezza: Right. And yet I always feel bad for the dislocation it causes in people's lives. At Stanford, when I had to lay people off, I eased the transition for them in any way I could. But sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, and you have to make them stick.


Next Story