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Condoleezza Rice praises Barack Obama -- but oh so diplomatically

July 20, 2008 | 11:30 am

Condoleezza Rice says Barack Obama's candidacy is 'great for our country' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is nothing if not diplomatic -- after all, that's a significant part of her job description.

She proved that yet again this morning, during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition," when she was asked about the historic nature of Barack Obama's position as the presumptive Democratic nominee for the White House.

BLITZER: One final question. Your immediate predecessor, Colin Powell. I interviewed him many times. But he said this to Tavis Smiley, back in January. About this race and about the phenomenon of Sen. Barack Obama, he said this:

"Let's enjoy this moment where a person like Barack Obama can knock down all of those old barriers that people thought existed, with respect to the opportunities that are available for African Americans.  And my congratulations to him."

Now, you grew up in the segregated South. You know what racism is in our country. The fact that Barack Obama is now the Democratic presidential nominee, what does that say to you?

RICE:  I think it's great. And I think it's great for our country. 

And I do think it says that we've come a long way. But it's interesting that it's from Colin Powell. He knocked down a few barriers of his own. He knocked down the barrier of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He knocked down the barrier to the first black secretary of State. Yes, I've knocked down a few too. It just shows that our country has been doing this for a while and it's great that this last barrier, perhaps, has also come down.

BLITZER:  Have you decided who to vote for?

RICE:  Wolf, yes. 

BLITZER:  Do you want to tell us?

RICE:  No.

She was less diplomatic -- in fact, her straight talk could rival GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain's -- when asked about speculation ...

... that McCain might name her as his running mate:

BLITZER: You've made it clear you don't want to be vice president of the United States.  How clear have you made it? In other words, have you told the Republican nominee in effect, you know what, don't even consider me?

RICE:  Wolf, I tell everybody who will listen, you know, through you and everybody else.  Look, I've done my part. And I've got six months to sprint to the finish and then I have other things that I want to do. I want to go back to California, I want to write a serious book about American foreign policy. There are issues that have come to concern me greatly. Some that I was concerned about before I came here, like the state of education in the United States, which I think is at the root of our competitiveness. It's at the root of our confidence and therefore it's at the root of our international leadership. I'll go back and work on issues like that. And it will be time for somebody else to take the stage.

BLITZER:  Does John McCain know that?

RICE:  Wolf, I've said it to everybody who will listen.

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo credit: Associated Press